Practice for K-9s: Dogs track along urban, hard surfaces in Dover

DOVER — For a good portion of the day Wednesday, the Garrison City's downtown looked like a crime scene.Numerous police cruisers were parked in the parking lot of Janetos Market and police officers and their K-9 units were scattered around the city doing scent tracks.Fortunately for police, there was no major crime in the city — instead multiple police K-9s from the area were taking part in an advanced course on hard surface/urban tracking."More than half of the tracks we do are in a heavily populated downtown or industrial areas," said Dover K-9 Officer John Usher. "It's extremely difficult for dogs to track on pavement."A less-populated or wooded area is more likely to hold a scent longer, but in a heavy populated area there are more people around that could possibly contaminate the scent, according to Usher.Usher added that weather conditions also play a factor, a breezy day could blow a scent on smooth pavement elsewhere. The training also gives the dogs good training in the exercise of scent discrimination, the act of distinguishing one scent over another.The Vermont Police Canine Association puts on the weeklong training. The training started in Vermont, where two instructors went over how they train their dogs for this type of tracking. The instructors then came down to New Hampshire to observe the K-9 teams and evaluate their performances.During the training the officers would lay a track in a portion of the city and then have the K-9 sniff an item with the scent the on it and follow the track.Usher laid a track that was roughly more than a mile and Strafford County Sheriff's bloodhound, Boomer, successfully tracked it."This is the environment these dogs have to work in," Usher said. "You have to challenge your dog, why not challenge them in an environment like this?"For the dog the training is a game and most are rewarded with play toys after successfully tracking a scent. Usher said all the dogs are extremely friendly and only attack people when they're given a command.Officer Dave Dewey of the Colchester, Vt., Police Department, said it's interesting to evaluate the officers because it seems that everyone has a different way of accomplishing the same goals."It's good for us do see how they do things," he said. "We learn that we all have different ways of doing the same thing."Other agencies taking part in the training include Rochester, Portsmouth, Strafford and Bow. Officers from Wells, Maine and Middlesex County, Mass., also participated. Wednesday was the second day of on-site training for the teams. They were in Portsmouth on Tuesday, will be training in downtown Rochester today and will conclude training on Friday outside of the Fox Run Mall.

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