Book Review: K-9 Trailing-The straightest Path by Jeff Schettler

Posted: February 22, 2012 in Dog Training, German Shepherd, Man Trailing/Tracking, Uncategorized

  I have only two minor criticisms of this book, and I’m going to get them out of the way immediately.  The criticism is directed to the publishing company Alpine Publications.  K-9 Trailing- The Straightest Path, by Jeff Schettler, needs better promotion.  As a blogger on all things dog, I try to keep abreast of all the newest books.  And I’m pretty successful at it. But,  I accidently found this very fine book because the author, and the publisher of K-9 Cop magazine had the vision to print an excerpt in the latest issue.  I hope to help you  by printing this review to my readers, but more exposure would surely enhance sales of this book!  When book #2 is ready, blitz the industry!!!  One minor addition to this:  While very attractive as bound, consider publishing the next edition in a good quality ring binding.  This book should be able to be laid out and STUDIED.  It is a WORKBOOK, and the format will make using the book more convenient.  (On the publishers end, if a book is heavily used, it wears out, necessitating that we, as consumers, buy another copy.  I’m a greedy capitalist, you need to make money.  Think about it.)

Now, on to the meat of this review:   I could begin and end this review with these words:  “Follow this link, and buy this book.  If you have an interest in Law enforcement, Competitive Trailing, or Search and Rescue, buy this book and read it.”

Yes, it’s that good.  Jeff Schettler has literally, been there, done that.  He’s made the mistakes, learned the lessons, made the changes, and thought Trailing with a canine thru too its most logical methodology.  He’s challenged some of the sacred cows of tracking, and given solid evidence of why those methods fail to produce. 

On page 9, a discussion begins about our abilities (or lack thereof) to “Read” our dogs when on a trail.  Several indicators of behavior are provided in the text, with the understanding that each and every dog may have differences.  The guidance given is broad enough to provide a guide, and narrow enough to provide very specific behavior.

“Distraction Behavior”( is another subject with too little written about it from the Handlers point of view.  The question is posed in the text, “So, how does a handler correct a distraction?”   I’ll let you read the answer, but suffice it to say that Schettler answers it confidently and clearly. (Chapter Ten in its entirety)  This chapter also addresses “Line Handling” for handlers, an often neglected skill that we all need to study, practice, and improve.   It may well be the cornerstone for training for many, many years.

Chapter 7  is replete with the reasons most of us lay such lousy trails for our dogs in training.  Again, the author has tried everything that we all have, and failed.  But he never gave in to those mistakes and accepted them.  Thinking well beyond, he discusses the importance of diversity in our training helpers, including those with alzheimers symptoms.  Chapter 8 follows this up with the subject of Fire trails for puppies, which puts young dogs in situations that build and encourage tracking ability.  Unlike other disciplines, trailing work training can and should start at a very early age, and Schettler tells us how to do it properly.

The price of the book is entirely covered in Chapter 11, “Scent Discrimination”.  The Double-Blind method of testing a dogs ability is described thoroughly, and becomes the Gold Standard for proofing ourselves and our dogs.  On page 134 of the chapter, the subject of dogs failures on a trail, and why this occurs is discussed.  Thisquote is head and shoulders above the rest:  “…The real reason why dogs are not as reliable…is not because of the dog, but because of the handler’s training paradigm and his belief system.”  The discussion lays the problem squarely where it belongs, on preconceived ideas of handlers.

Split Trails in training are also described in clear logical steps of preparation and execution, which will greatly enhance our dogs ability to discriminate different human scents, rather than just pursuing the newest, strongest scent.  The accompanying photo’s and diagrams explain these methods thoroughly and clearly.

Chapters on streams and rivers, and hard surfaces also provide instruction that will aid those who really study what is being suggested.  Again, to really benefit, you must get this book in front of you, (and your team) and put it to the test.  Schettler is writing from the field of long experience, and he writes in the voice of a very knowledgable teacher, without telling you that he knows better than you.  He admits in the preface that he is not a professional writer, but was influenced at an early age by comic books, graphic novels, and the art work of Frank Frazetta and Boris Vallejo!  That sounds like my kind of writer.   Schettler credits Dianne Nelson as his editor, and I credit her with allowing the voice of a Dog Handler to remain true to the tone I would expect.  He writes what he knows, and says it in his own style without a heavy handed english major beating up his words.  Wonderful job Dianne!

   The final reason that you need this 192 page treasure chest, is this:  Book Two is already underway, and the two are intimately connected as Schettler forewarns.  Buy them, have them ringbound for easier use, and soak up 25 years and hundreds of trail miles in this book.  I have already picked up a copy of Schettlers first book “Red Dog Rising”, a chronicle of his training with a beloved bloodhound  “Ronin”, a book I had overlooked previously.

Schettler has recently been given several writers awards for his books, and those accolades are certainly earned.  But don’t buy these books because writers say they’re worthy.  Buy them because they are chock-full of the very finest training available today.

  1. So how do you generally get notifications of new books. Interestingly, we’ve never heard of you either!
    The publisher

    • Robert says:

      I’m what would be called an “Interested Nobody” so not having heard of me is fairly normal!
      It’s amazing what you can get when you ask the right people nicely enough, without looking to make a profit. I like to read, I know what I like, and I’m an un-biased reviewer. Most authors, agents, and publishers welcome free publicity…Very seldom do I give more than very soft critique, but I do write what I feel. Since I’m beholden to no one, I can do that without fear.
      I only have 9,473 subscribers currently, so my small positive feedback will probably not give you a huge sales spike, but free advertising is free advertising! Thanks for putting “K-9 Trailing…” out there! I look forward to buying the second book!