Updated K9 Training Classes & Profile Page

PACKTRACK TeamSystem Update

We’re continuing to update PACKTRACK to a modern, easier to use design. We now have K9 training class support in the Records page as well as a new handler profile page that works on the web and in the mobile app.

Training Classes

Create a training class record any time you want to document classroom work (which typically takes place indoors without your dog). This new record type is displayed on the records page just like any other police K9 record you may have for training or deployment activities.

 

K9 Police Training Class Records List

 

Click on a training class record row to open the record in the editor. From here you can view and edit any details. Classroom records support the new PACKTRACK record review system so supervisors can accept or reject records and the handler will be notified. Training class records are also a great place to store any K9 training documents you might have received at the class.

 

K9 Police Training Class Record Editor

 

User Profile Page

The updated profile page is available on the web and in the mobile app. It provides a cleaner interface and additional statistical information including your total training hours and number of deployments. It’s available for handlers (web and mobile app), trainers (web) and supervisors (web).

 

K9 Police Profile Page on Mobile

 

The new profile page borrows a feature from the Dogs page: you can organize all of your K9 record keeping documents into categories. Drag and drop files from your computer or select them from your phone. You can even rename files and move them between categories by dragging.

 

K9 Police Document Management

 

By the way, did you know that PACKTRACK has mobile apps for Android and iOS/iPhone? Download them anytime from the mobile app stores.

We hope these new updates improve your PACKTRACK experience. Got questions? Let us know.

K9 Supervisor & Record Review Enhancements

PACKTRACK TeamSystem Update

As a K9 supervisor you have a lot to manage. PACKTRACK has always provided a dedicated supervisor role to assist you in overseeing the training and deployments of your K9 teams. Our latest update significantly extends this functionality with a new interface, more features and a new record review system.

The most obvious change is that supervisors now see the same modern PACKTRACK interface that handlers have been using. This includes an expandable search bar at the top of the page, an intuitive calendar view summarizing the activities of all of your K9 teams and a detailed record list sorted into date groups.

 

PACKTRACK's new K9 supervisor records page

 

Key information is right at the top of the page. Click the Late Records banner to show any records that your handlers should have completed by now. Click the Not Reviewed banner to find all records that have been completed by your handlers but still need to be reviewed. Finally, select the Live Tracks banner to see all active tracking deployments as well as any that have occurred in the last 3 days.

 

Links to common K9 searches are shown at the top of the Records page

 

You can view the deployment track for any of your handlers in a fully interactive map by clicking the View Tracking Map button on the associated record row.

 

K9 supervisor views live K9 deployment tracking map

 

The same familiar Search Bar used by handlers is now available for supervisors as well. Filter the displayed records by type or handler using the dropdown fields or select one of your own custom Saved Searches. Expand the search form using the icon on the right to run a detailed record search. You can save any search to be used later by clicking the Save Search button.

 

K9 supervisor can search records by type and handler

 

All activities performed by your handlers are overlaid in the calendar. Simply click a date and all training and deployments for that day will show below. Circle icons in the calendar show training while stars are deployments. An outlined icon means there are incomplete records on that date.

 

K9 supervisors see activity data from all handlers overlaid onto their calendar

 

The records list summarizes each record as a row and the Completion and Reviewed status of each record are clearly marked. Click anywhere on a training or deployment row to open a detail view.

 

 

Reviewing records is fast and intuitive. Once a record is open just select an appropriate exercise, handler and dog and then click the Reviewed icon in the top right. Reviewing deployments works the same way.

 

K9 supervisor reviews K9 training record

 

When rejecting records you’ll need to enter a rejection reason. The associated handler will get a notification within PACKTRACK and by email that their record was rejected, along with the reason. Once they update and resave the record you’ll be able to review it again.

 

K9 handlers see the record rejection reason

 

The new member management page provides a simple summary of each of your handler’s activities. Invite or signup new members using the +Member button in the upper right. Use the Handlers table to review and compare performance. You can click on a column header such as Training Hours or Total Deployments to sort the table the way you want. Clicking on a handler’s name or one of their statistics will open the Records page filtered to show those records. Lastly, the bar charts in this table offer a snapshot of training and deployment activity for each handler by month. This makes it easy to spot issues with things like training consistency. Green bars in the Training By Month column show months where the handler has trained for 16 or more hours.

 

K9 supervisors can view handler summary data in the new Manage page

 

We hope these updates help make your supervisory work just a little bit easier. Find a bug or have a suggestion to improve PACKTRACK? Let us know!

PACKTRACK Pricing Change

Andrew WeimanGeneral

We’re planning a change to all PACKTRACK handler subscriptions. Prices will be increasing in the new year so that we can continue to enhance the service with great new features. The price for new and existing handlers will increase to $140 per year ($11.67/month) starting on Jan 1st, 2022. If you pay monthly then it will be $14 per month. If you’ve already paid for your subscription then this increase won’t affect you until you renew. Free trainer and supervisor accounts are not affected.

We recognize that this may be surprising considering how long we’ve been able to keep our price so low. This increase helps us ensure our long term commitment to providing a robust, easy to use K9 record keeping solution for handlers everywhere. These are the reasons we’re moving forward with this change:

  • Our pricing has been unchanged since PACKTRACK was introduced over 10 years ago
  • The costs associated with running this service have risen substantially over the years
  • We continue to invest heavily in new features, refinements and bug fixes every month
  • We’re committed to a roadmap of quality improvements to give you the best possible experience
  • Even after this change, at under $12/month, we still cost less than our competition

Thank you for your understanding. We don’t make these decisions lightly and very much appreciate your support of this service. If you have any concerns at all please reach out and let us know.

Thanks always,
Andrew Weiman and Jeff Barrett

K9 Training Exercise Scenarios

PACKTRACK TeamSystem Update

With our latest update you can now create scenario-based training exercises for your K9. A scenario exercise includes several types of patrol training in one focused exercise. The goal is teach the dog to transition back and forth between each skill within a short period of time. This helps you to more accurately replicate real life work as a K9 team. For example, you might switch from an area search to a building search and then to a track in one training scenario.

Creating a scenario exercise is easy. Use the + PATROL TYPE button to add each type to the exercise definition.

 

K9 Records - Create Scenario Exercise

 

When handlers later complete this multi-part exercise they only need to write their comments on the training outcome in one place to summarize all activities.

 

K9 Records - Handler Completes Scenario Exercise

 

You can also specifically search for multi-type scenario records in the search form.

 

K9 Records - Search For Scenario Training

 

Here’s an example of how you might write up your comments for a scenario exercise.

SCENARIO synopsis: Carjacking robbery with a firearm. Suspect fled on foot and resisted with violence once located by the K-9 team. K-9 was used to locate the discarded firearm.

The exercise monitor, Andrew Weiman, directed me to the starting location of the track where the robbery suspect was last seen by officers, running away. Two cover officers accompanied me. Prior to beginning the track, a loud K-9 warning was given but no response was heard and no one surrendered. The track was only 100 yards in length, moving from north to south along a fence line and ending with a proximity alert by K-9 Hunter from approximately 15 yards away. Based on the alert, I paused our progression and took cover at the rear bumper of a parked work truck and began to survey the immediate area for threats. I allowed K-9 Hunter to move forward to the end of his 20 ft tracking lead to cast for airborne odors. K-9 Hunter again began to bracket with his head up, cast along the soft air currents that were flowing into his direction from in front of us. K-9 Hunter targeted a garbage container and barked as an alert to the presence of the hiding suspect. Another K-9 warning was given to the unseen and still hidden suspect. The suspect ran from his hiding place at the opposite side of the garbage container and K-9 Hunter was released with the apprehension command. There were no issues with the dog’s tracking.

K-9 Hunter chased the suspect down and bit the hidden sleeve on the decoy’s right arm, holding on until I ran up to aid in the apprehension. I ordered the suspect to stop resisting and to stop kicking the dog as I performed two knee strikes and a leg sweep on the left leg of the suspect to take him to the ground. I ordered my cover officers to take control of the suspect’s legs and left arm as I took control of K-9 Hunter. K-9 Hunter was given one verbal command to release the bite as I applied e-collar stimulus simultaneously to the voice command. K-9 Hunter responded instantly and affirmatively to the verbal and physical command to release.

Once we moved back to the starting location of the track, I was informed by the monitor, Andrew Weiman, to walk across the street and meet with monitor Aaron Petermen. I was informed that the suspect had discarded a pistol and a wallet and I was to perform an area search for the evidence. I removed the tracking harness and long lead from K-9 Hunter, and gave him the command to search the open grassy area for evidence. K-9 Hunter was able to locate and move into a down position in front of the pistol in approximately 40 seconds. I called K-9 Hunter to a heel position and Monitor Aaron Peterman covered the pistol with a traffic cone. I commanded the K-9 to search the area again and he was able to locate the wallet in about 2 minutes of searching and about 20 yards from the pistol. K-9 Hunter moved to a down position with the wallet in front of him and he mouthed the wallet, throwing it up into the air, at which time I verbally corrected him and commanded him back into the down position at the wallet. The K-9 was called to a heel position and redirected to search again, to reinforce the down command on the article and to not molest the evidence. I verbally corrected the dog when he got too close to the article with his mouth and he avoided touching it. I called him to the heel position and leashed him. As we walked away, in a heel, I rewarded the dog with a toy and game of tug.

We hope you find this new feature addition helpful. If you have any feedback on this update or anything else then please reach out and let us know.

Optional K9 Training Events

PACKTRACK TeamSystem Update

First of all, we’d like to thank everyone for their patience as we’ve migrated PACKTRACK to the new interface. All K9 training and deployment records now use a new modern design which works the same on the website and in the iOS and Android mobile apps. We’ll continue to transition other areas of the interface to the new design over the coming months.

Until now PACKTRACK has only supported mandatory event attendance. When creating an event you specify which handlers will train and it’s expected that they will all be there. Our latest feature lets training event creators choose whether each member’s attendance is optional or mandatory. You can now schedule an upcoming event with a list of optional handlers and allow them to decide whether they will attend.

Attendance settings for K9 training events

Members who are invited to an optional event will receive an email and notification asking if they’d like to attend. To respond to the invitation just click the yellow “Undecided” button in the event row or use the context menu. You can change your mind about attending any time using the same options.

Choose to opt-in or decline a K9 training event invitation

View each member’s attendance status (whether they opted-in or declined) by opening the event. Note that Mandatory events will always show all members as attending.

Event member attendance status

You may have noticed that the record list layout has changed. While it looks a little different it still works the same way. This updated design better distinguishes between the training event and the exercises within each event. As before you can click on any row to open the Record Editor and the icon with 3 dots on the far right of each row provides context menu options.

Updated training record rows in PACKTRACK

We hope this update gives training groups a more flexible way to plan their training. This feature, like many others, was added based on your comments and suggestions. Please keep the feedback coming and let us know if you have any questions.

New PACKTRACK Interface

PACKTRACK TeamSystem Update

It’s been a while since our last blog post! We’ve been hard at work redesigning the PACKTRACK interface to make it even easier to enter K9 training and deployment records.

 

PACKTRACK Records Page

 

In the early spring we quietly introduced the new training interface as a Beta feature available in the Records page. Access to the old training interface was still available but we’ve been encouraging everyone to try the new design and give us feedback. This new interface is available on the website and in the app and provides numerous speed and usability improvements to make record keeping fast and accurate. We’ve been actively refining the new design with bug fixes and enhancements based on your comments.

 

PACKTRACK Detection Exercise Page

 

The majority of you now use the new interface to enter your training records. To simplify the system for everyone we’re ready to remove the old interface from PACKTRACK on the website and in the mobile app. We recognize that some of you are still using the old system and that this will require learning a new interface. We feel the new system is much easier to use but that doesn’t mean there won’t be challenges in learning something new. We ask for your patience during this transition.

 

PACKTRACK Menu Items To Be Removed

 

The new PACKTRACK UI will provide a streamlined experience with new features that works the same on the website and in the app. However this new technology won’t work in the Internet Explorer web browser. If you’re still using this browser then you’ll need to upgrade to a modern browser such as Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Microsoft Edge or Safari.

Please feel free to reach out to us at any time using our new support system. You can ask questions and provide feedback in a convenient chat interface that’s similar to text messaging. We’ll do our best to answer your questions quickly so you can get back to your K9 records.

 

PACKTRACK Help & Support System

 

A few weeks after the transition to the new PACKTRACK training UI we will update the deployments UI to use the same design. Our goal is to have most if not all PACKTRACK pages running with the new design by the end of the year. We appreciate your patience and value your feedback during this process. If you have any comments or concerns about anything then please reach out.

K9 App Improvements

PACKTRACK TeamSystem Update

The latest release brings the new PACKTRACK interface to our iPhone and Android apps. All of the previous K9 record keeping features in the mobile app are still available, including K9 tracking, training and deployment records. But we’ve also made a few additions. The first thing you’ll notice is that the navigation tabs have been moved from the bottom of the screen into a new side menu which is accessed by tapping the button in the upper left. This frees up vertical space and gives us room to add more options.

 

PACKTRACK Mobile App Home Screen

 

If you see any issues, make sure to update your mobile app to the latest version available from Google Play or the iOS App Store. You can check the version of your installed PACKTRACK app on the bottom right of the home page. You’ll need version 4.3.0 or greater.

The Dogs page is another addition to the new mobile app. It’s based on the same layout as the PACKTRACK desktop site and should look immediately familiar. From here you can access all of the same Dog configuration settings as are available on the main PACKTRACK site. Upload photos and documents directly from your phone, change dog settings or set a new dog profile picture. You can even drag and drop K9 documents between categories using your finger. Try it out!

 

PACKTRACK Mobile App Dog Screen

 

This set of changes is just the first step. Over the coming months we’ll be introducing new screens and additional functionality that work the same on the desktop and in our mobile apps. As with the desktop site we’ve ensured that help information is always available. Tap a question mark in the app to get relevant help whenever you need it.

 

PACKTRACK Mobile App Dog Edit Screen

 

There are lots of other changes here as well. For example, you can (finally) delete a dog if you’re just using it for testing. Also, search results on the main site are much improved when a specific dog is selected. Lastly, we’ve addressed over a dozen bug fixes and refinements to improve how PACKTRACK works. We really appreciate your feedback as we enhance our K9 training and deployment software to be robust and comprehensive yet easy to use. Let us know what is (or isn’t) working for you.

Smarter K9 Training Records

PACKTRACK TeamSystem Update

Welcome to another PACKTRACK release. It’s a big one! This update includes significant refinements to the way PACKTRACK works and new interface changes aimed at making the service easier to use.

New Dog Settings Interface

We’re in the process of updating the PACKTRACK interface, step by step, to improve the experience for everyone. In this release we’ve introduced a modernized Dogs page with more features and a layout that adapts across all devices – from phones to desktop computers. Dogs are now listed on summary “cards” which provide a clear overview of their configuration and a summary of their training and deployment activity. The card view is interactive and has options for changing the dog image, viewing documents or editing dog details. The menu button (3 horizontal dots) in the upper right of each dog card shows a drop-down menu with additional options.

 

New PACKTRACK Dogs Page

 

Choosing to Add or Edit a dog shows a panel on the right side of the page. There are 3 options in the upper left of this panel for managing your dog’s information: Edit Details, Edit Photo and Manage Documents. Feel free to explore some of the new functionality. For example, the Edit Details option shows new dog configuration fields including settings for your dog’s Patrol Types and Detection Odor Types. Information on how these new dog type settings are used is covered in the sections below.

The Edit Photo screen now supports drag and drop and provides additional image editing options like zoom and rotation. Managing documents for your dogs is easier than ever. In addition to supporting drag and drop to upload new files, you can now rename your files and organize them into categories. If you have questions about how these new screens work then check out the instructions shown in the bottom left.

 

Edit K9 Photo Screen

 

Ignore Exercises That Aren’t Applicable To Your K9

When training at a group event, there may be exercises that don’t apply to your dog. For example, the event might include a detection exercise but you have a patrol dog. Or perhaps there’s a patrol tracking exercise but your patrol dog doesn’t track. In the past, you would need to complete all exercises at an event for each of your dogs in PACKTRACK. For each exercise that doesn’t apply to a specific dog you would select the option “Did Not Perform – Not Applicable to Dog”. With this release we’re introducing K9 type attributes. These new settings allow you to specify the types of exercises that apply to your dog. All other exercise types will be automatically ignored.

 

Configure your K9's attributes

 

When you first log in after this update you’ll be asked to review your dog configuration. From the new Dogs page, click the Edit icon for each of your dogs to open the editor interface. Choose the Edit Details option and scroll down in the right pane to select any Patrol Types and Detection Odor Types that apply. Only exercises of the types that you select will be visible for completion by this dog in the future. However, changes to these settings will not affect the applicability of past exercises.

These changes affect patrol and detection dogs. For example, if a patrol dog only has the Obedience and Apprehension patrol types selected then they will not have the option to complete a future patrol Tracking exercise or any detection exercises. This applies to exercise target odors for detection dogs as well. For example, if a detection dog only has the Drugs odor type selected then they will not have to complete exercises at future events which only contain Explosive type target odors. They also won’t have to complete any patrol exercises. If you want your dog to complete all exercise types at every event then feel free to select all of the patrol and detection odor types for each of your dogs.

Once all of your dog’s types are set, PACKTRACK will only require you to complete a training record for the specific dogs that match the exercise type. If you have no dogs that match an exercise type then the exercise will show in the list with a new icon indicating that the exercise doesn’t apply. In the example below, a handler with a patrol tracking dog does not have to complete the detection exercise from the same event.

 

Example where K9 exercise does not apply

 

Automatically Categorize Odors As Target Or Proofing

When creating a detection exercise, PACKTRACK enables you to specify target odors (drugs, currency, explosives, etc.) as well as any proofing odors (typically packaging or distractor odors such as cardboard, plastic wrap, paper, etc.) that may be used. Your dog should alert to the target odors and ignore the proofing odors. This works great if all of the dogs at an event are of the same detection odor type.

However, if different detection dog types, such as a drug dog and a currency dog, are in an exercise that uses both drug and currency odors then things get more complicated. In this case, we want the drug dog to use drugs as the target odor and currency as the proofing odor. The currency dog would use currency as the target odor and drugs as the proofing odor. In the past, adding this type of training required you to create 2 separate exercise records in PACKTRACK – one for each dog. Each exercise would specify different target and proofing odors.

With this release we’ve made the process much simpler. Now you only have to create one exercise no matter how many different detection dogs may attend the event. PACKTRACK will automatically categorize each odor in the exercise as target or proofing based on your dog’s detection odor type configuration.

In the screenshots below, two K9s completed the same drug detection exercise. However, the drug odor was categorized as a target odor for drug dog ‘Max’ (top screenshot) and a proofing odor for currency dog ‘Gore’ (bottom screenshot).

 

K9 Detection Odor Categorization

 

How does this work in practice? For simple exercises nothing should change. Record your target odors in the exercise and you’re set. If you’re running an exercise that only contains proofing odors then make sure to set the Blank / Controlled Negative checkbox when you create the exercise. This ensures that all detection dogs have to complete it.

If the exercise contains both target and proofing odors or there are different types of detection dogs at the event then these changes should make things easier for you. As in the past, when creating the exercise you should explicitly specify the proofing odors which you want all detection dogs to ignore (towels, cardboard, etc.). Next, enter all of the odors that will be target odors for at least some of the dogs. That’s it – PACKTRACK should take care of categorizing the odors as target or proofing for each of your dogs based on their attributes.

For example, you might add drug and currency odors to an exercise. Now, when a drug dog completes this exercise they will have the drug odor categorized as the target and the currency odor categorized as proofing. A currency dog completing the same exercise will have the currency odor categorized as the target and the drug odor categorized as proofing. Of course, both dogs will continue to see any explicitly added proofing odors (dog toy, cardboard, etc.) categorized as proofing.

Information about how the exercise odors are categorized is displayed when you complete your training record to help you write an accurate narrative (see previous screenshots). The odor category is also shown in your exercise report. The report screenshot below shows that drugs were categorized as a proofing odor for currency dog ‘Gore’.

 

K9 Training Report With Proofing Odor

 

Conclusion

We’re really excited about this update. The new Dogs interface extends the design which started earlier this year with a modernized site layout and interactive handler home page. We’re eager to migrate other areas of PACKTRACK to this new design over the coming months to enable new features and make the system easier to use.

The new dog type settings are aimed at making the system smarter and more automated. With this change we expect there will be fewer occasions where you’ll need to complete a training record by specifying that the exercise didn’t apply to your dog. Meanwhile, automatic odor categorization streamlines how exercises are created for detection dogs. All dogs completing the same exercise will have odors categorized as target or proofing automatically based on their detection odor settings.

Let us know what you think of these changes. We’d love to hear from you.

How to Write K9 Training Records for Detection Dogs

Andrew WeimanK9 Record Keeping

Police K9 Vehicle Search

While the canine law enforcement profession progresses, some parts remain very much the same. As a new canine handler I was advised to keep training records but to write as little as possible. Those that came before me explained that writing too much would only provide the defense attorney with more things to attack. Of course, this idea only had merit if the attorney didn’t know anything about training drug detection dogs. It may have been partially true in the past but not today.

Training logs should paint a picture for the reader. They should show how the training has progressed as the dog and handler work together. They should also detail the work that the handler did while training the dog. You’re painting a picture that illustrates the reliability of you and the dog as a team.

So what should you write? First of all, training goals should always be clearly stated and directly addressed in the notes and comments section of your training logs. This is something that we emphasize for K9 training records in the PACKTRACK app and online software. While it’s different for each canine and exercise, there are standard elements that you should include in your training comments. Below are some areas to consider.

  • Target odors. If the dog finds the target odor then be sure to say so. Describe the behavior change and the final response. List what you see when the dog detects the target odor. For example: “There was a head turn, closed mouth, breathing increase, excited posture, tail wagging at a more rapid pace. The dog then bracketed the target odor, tracing the odor to its source. Once at the source of the odor the dog came to the ultimate and final response of a sit.”  
  • No target odors. If there are blank areas (without target odors) in the exercise then be sure to note whether you determined that a target odor was present or not. For example, if an exercise has several vehicles but not all of them have target odors then you’ll want to note the K9’s response after smelling each car. If there was no behavior change then write that you knew, based on the dog’s response and your training, that the vehicle was a blank and therefore moved on to the next car.
  • Proofing odors. If there is a proofing or novel odor in an exercise then you should mention in your records that the dog smelled at the odor and did not respond.
  • Blank or controlled negative. If the whole exercise is a blank or controlled negative then you should explain that your dog inspected the entire area and, based on your training and the dog’s behavior, you determined that there was no target odor present.
  • Similarity to real life deployments. Describe that you conducted the exercise as you would work the dog in real life. It can impact the dog and K9 handler’s training if, for example, you work the dog on lead on vehicle exteriors in real life settings but in training you cut the dog off lead to inspect a car exterior. Explicitly mention that this exercise matches how you work the dog in deployment scenarios.
  • Corrective training. When working on specific training issues your notes should explain how the exercise is intended to improve or fix the problem. Any weaknesses or problems that you observe during training must be noted in your records. As trainers we must have a plan for correcting these issues and then create exercises focused on improving behavior. Your training comments appropriately document the team’s progress in each exercise and prove that the issue has been reliably corrected.

Documenting your training progress creates a complete picture of the quality of your training efforts and the reliability of your dog. These comments also show that you’re improving as a handler. Clear and accurate documentation shows that you’re educated about proper dog training techniques and diligent and competent in your profession.

Defense experts prefer to separate out training activities to imply issues or mistakes. However, training records should be taken as a whole. The totality of the K9 team’s records demonstrate the knowledge of the handler/trainer, the proficiency of the dog and the team’s joint capacity to improve and work together reliably.

A combination of the initial training and continued maintenance training, knowledge of the canine handler describing the training methods, and progress of the team proven through testing is needed testimony to paint a complete picture of reliability.

Should We Record K9 Training Accuracy Statistics?

Andrew WeimanK9 Record Keeping

The Florida v Harris case was decided at the US Supreme Court

As the creator of PACKTRACK and an expert in the field I’m commonly asked about extending our K9 record keeping system to compute an accuracy percentage statistic during K9 detection training.

The requested method of calculating this statistic is simple. If the dog finds or “hits” the target odor then it’s marked as correct. When the dog doesn’t find or “misses” the target odor then it’s marked as incorrect. If the dog indicates that a target odor is present when it isn’t (sometimes referred to as a “false alert”) then it’s also marked as incorrect. The statistic is calculated based on the percentage of correct responses.

The request for this feature may come from a misunderstanding of the 2013 Supreme Court case of Florida v Harris or be based on advice received from a trainer. The US Supreme Court ruling in this case explicitly rejected an earlier Florida court ruling that favored “rigid rules” in favor of a “Totality of Circumstances” approach. The key problem with using an accuracy percentage calculation in deployments is that it’s impossible to accurately say whether the dog was incorrect. The Supreme Court ruling went even further by stating that probable cause cannot be and has never been based on a “bright-line test” such as a statistical calculation. Probable cause is based on a “totality of the circumstances” analysis. Based on this decision, the idea of using an accuracy statistic for training would not be beneficial in court.

Another problem with this idea is it presumes that the outcome of a training exercise provides confirmation that the training was done correctly. It seems logical to assume that hits are correct responses while misses and false alerts are incorrect responses. However, this simplification reads more into the data than is captured. The idea that we can equate locating a target odor (a hit) to a determination of whether the training was done correctly is absurd. It’s like presuming that since no tangible substance was found after a K9 indication during a deployment that this indication must have been a false alert or somehow incorrect.

Behavior modification in drug detection training is mainly done with positive reinforcement at the appropriate time. Handlers can inadvertently train canines to respond to a “cue”, a behavior, sound, or action that the canine learns as a signal to respond in a positive way that a target odor is present. The canine learns this behavior over a series of exercises where the cue (an action taken by the handler) was done and the canine was rewarded in a positive manner. This cueing is consistently reinforced by the handler during training exercises and may cause what some call a “false alert”. While this “false alert” will be correctly marked as an incorrect response by the dog, it is actually a red flag that there is a training issue. The real incorrect training exercises are those prior to the “false alert”, when the handler performed the cue where target odor was concealed, and the canine was rewarded. During those exercises the canine was taught the cue. These exercises would be marked as “hits” with the presumption that the exercises were conducted correctly when in fact they were not.

An accuracy statistic requires that we read too much into the outcome of an exercise. There is no way to provide this statistic and we shouldn’t try. Training time should be focused on finding and correcting the problems that we, as handlers and trainers, may have caused. Training is the time to push teams to their limits and beyond. Handlers should come to training feeling free to make and learn from their mistakes so they can prevent and correct them in future training. Exercises should condition handlers to perform proper technique while increasing their knowledge and perfecting the skill of dog handling.

In using the proposed statistic handlers are forced to only work to the limit of correct performance. They will only do exercises that they know they can complete properly in order to maximize their accuracy percentage. Who would want to push themselves to the point of error if a statistic, which provides no explanation, will be used to gauge their reliability?

My advice is to be careful if you quantify your hits, misses and false alerts as a percentage of accuracy. You are keeping records that can negatively impact the quality of your training and provide a false sense of proper training. And, if you’re challenged in court, it’s unlikely that this statistic will do much to help you win a reliability argument. There are better ways to train and document your records and we will talk about this in future posts. Stay tuned.