Evidence Search Dogs
When Craig had cemented his relationship With Bill Tolhurst and he brought him to Australia he wanted to show him a search he had designed. Craig could remember Bill saying before he came to Australia that he always wanted to see a pointing dog do searches for lost or discarded objects as he thought that would be really cool to see them stand and point out the object.
Craig had always been amazed at how police dog trainers allowed their dogs to pick up any found evidence objects and how this would have to obliterate all and any fingerprints and trace evidence including the ability to use the object as a scent article to be able to utilise with a scent selective trailing dog. Craig had many conversations with police and other armed services dog trainers about this problem, he had watched many demonstrations in the late 80's and 90's of armed services doing what they called evidence search only to see their dogs pick up in their mouths and carry back to their handler the object.
When Craig asked them all about the contaminating of the evidence they all had the same answer that the dogs only do this in training but when it is a real job they dont touch it, as a professional trainer you can not convince him that you train dogs differently to how you really need them to react for real. Craig was always scared that if a police officer had to take his dog and look for a colleagues lost pistol and the dog picked it up this could have dire consequences for both the dog and bystanders. So for Craig when he decided to train his dogs for evidence search they were always going to be conditioned to not make physical contact with any object he asked them to search for as dogs only do what they are conditioned for and dont change their response from what was conditioned properly.
So his way he wanted to show Bill was to have someone throw out an object and have his dog do an evidence search, when it located the human odour impregnated object it should drop with the object between its legs so it is easily identifiable and dealt with by the handler without the dog or handler having caused any contamination via any contact leaving the object as pristine evidence. When he did get to show Bill in Australia Craig's then patrol dog Nitro doing evidence search he was so thrilled and loved how it was such a much better way than the old contaminating pick up and carry method. At the time he had Bill here he wanted to also show him his cadaver dog as he was the world authority at that time and since he did not use his program he offered, Craig wanted his constructive criticism and feedback on how good his dog was and any suggestions on improvements.
Again Craig was so proud he had totally impressed the guy he believed to be the best in the world with both of his dogs, a boost of support from someone of this calibre just lifts your horizons so far and wide. Craig continued to enhance and develop his evidence search techniques and his dog could find amazingly small and insignificant objects with such precision he hardly ever missed finding my targets. Craig did dozens of evidence search demonstrations with him and was always supremely confident of his abilities, since then he have tried to keep an evidence search in my group of dogs. When we were at Sanctuary Cove our entire team of patrol safety dogs all did evidence search and we often found lost property for our residents.
One such time a long term resident was out on the golf course and her watch flew off whilst teeing of and she could not find it and did not report it for almost 1 week. She then reported to security and the manager asked Craig to go and try to find it, he did not hold much hope but wanted him to try and in less than 5 minutes Craig located the gold watch in some shrubs to the side of the tee off area. Another Christmas Eve a guest was down on the boardwalks in the village and she had a very expensive gold bracelet that feel of and down through the boardwalk into the water and rocks. Security officers had gotten under the boardwalk but could not locate any sign of it and the only way to get under there was by boat, so Craig was dropped off and in less than 5 minutes he located the bracelet in between rocks and down in the water.
The woman was so shocked and never thought she would see her bracelet ever again. This search saw newspaper coverage from several states about a dog finding gold at Sanctuary Cove it was crazy that we go and find lost people and get no publicity but finding a bracelet was huge news. Some of Craig's staff got newspaper coverage for finding lost wedding rings as well. More recently Craig was contacted by a past colleague from Sanctuary Cove whom was present to witness many successful evidence searches at the time, he had not seen him for about over 10 years and he requested my help to locate his wife to be's lost engagement ring. He was sick with worry as the ring was very expensive and they had lots of people search for it and even had a couple of people with metal detectors do a couple of days of searching. It had now been missing for almost a week and Craig took one of his Labradors that was trained for evidence search to do this job.
The area was a rural property with lots of gardens and shrubs and the grass was a little longer, definately not the easiest of search areas and would be best described as a needle in a hay stack after all the extra human scent and ground disturbance. Craig's dog was by no means a very seasoned dog so this meant he had to be ultra aware of subtle body language changes as with any scent or search type work with dogs it is all about synergy between the dog and handler and they are a team. The dog does not have to find everything you are looking for personally it only has to reliably give you information of a presence of target odour that you can read and translate into being successful. Craig searched the area on my first sweep and had no convincing alerts or body language from my dog even although he believed he was working very well.
On my second sweep Craig increased his search area and his dog showed interest and body language around one of the many small trees and shrubs that also had all old grass clippings around their trunks, he showed this on 2 sided of the small palm type tree, and he needed to have another rest. Whilst he was resting him Craig said to the fiancée he needs to do a visual and hand search in this area as I totally trust my dogs body language. So Craig started the visual and hand search and located a 20 scent piece and told the fiancée saying I did not find the ring but I am happy because my dog was right there was an article here. He replied we threw that out as a re enactment but also lost it and the metal detectors never located it either.
Craig was still resting the dog when I said you know what I am going to visual and hand search the other side of that same area as the dog was giving me body language on both sides. He commenced searching and up in the side of the palm in a cut leaf that had formed a cup was the engagement ring about 18 inches up of the ground. Craig's friend and his fiancée were so shocked and thrilled to get the expensive ring back, they could not thank me enough. This was a great search as Craig took one of his in training staff members whom witnessed the entire situation from the first phone call to the tears of gratitude and they had a new appreciation of what search dog and handler really is. A synergistic team of skills and belief in each other's abilities.