ESCAPE: How to Evade Trackers and Tracking Dogs

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by Kit Arthur

Owner and Founder of Tackleberry Solutions: Teaching Wartime Tactics for Civil and Home Defense

Through years of working with other military professional recon soldiers, special forces, police, and counter-drug agents, I’ve found that every single one of them has the same concern no matter their skill level or area of expertise. And that concern is SERE (Survive. Escape. Resist. Evade.) As a result, I wanted to share with you a few tips on evasion and how to avoid enemy capture when you are being searched for by canines and professional trackers.

As a kid, I used to track deer through the swamp. Little did I know that what I was doing was preparing myself to be a human tracker as an adult. It wasn’t until I found myself being trained by the Border Patrol Tactical Unit (BORTAC) that I understood my full potential resulting from my years of practice tracking deer as a child. This led me to realize that if I could track a human… I could evade one too.

What I’m about to share with you are solid, no kidding, real tactics to evade dogs and human trackers. Almost all of these, I have used in real life. Being able to evade capture has saved my butt a few times now, but evading detection has enabled me to have a successful 13-year career as a Recon soldier.

How to Evade a Tracking Dog

Imagine that a dog sees the scent like a red fog that hovers over the ground where you just traveled. This will assist you in understanding how to evade one.

If the wind moves at 3-5 MPH (a gentle breeze) the scent will travel with the wind about 5-15 yards. A stiff wind at 20-30 MPH the scent will travel 100-200 yards off the route traveled. Anything above 30 MPH, the handler ain’t even going to try because your scent has been totally dispersed everywhere and is just plain gone.

#1 Scent Massing

Yes, you read that right. Run hard to open the gap between your pursuer and yourself. Then stop and start running in a circle. Slowly run in a spiral until the circle is approximately 50 yards in diameter. This is called scent massing. What you just did placed your scent everywhere. As the dog approaches, they just smell you in every direction. With no clear trail, the dog will simply give up. I actually did this during a training mission with a local sheriff’s department.

Thirty minutes prior to the track, the handler had been bragging about how he and his bloodhound had just completed a week-old 26-mile track. (That’s NC state requirement to be certified as a bloodhound tracking handler/dog). Not even 15 mins into the track they hit my scent mass and both just gave up. They had no clue what to do or what had happened. Needless to say, the handler was super pissed at me.

Side Note: Your scent flows off of you the hotter your body gets. That means that your head, sweat, clothing, detergent, etc. are all the scents that make up you as the target. So as soon as you can slow down, do it. Try not to sweat any more than you have to.

#2 Scent Masking

I was running rabbit – in this case, I was giving the dog and his handler something to chase/track for training purposesfor a buddy of mine who was a bloodhound handler for a neighboring county sheriff’s department (it was a different agency from the last one.) I had just finished running about a mile when it started to rain. Not thinking anything of it, I threw on my poncho, walked 25 yards in the woods, and sat down.

I watched for a hot minute while my friend and his dog walked by me about 3 or 4 times. Finally, he called me on the phone and asked where I was. I stood up and scared the crap out of him. When I told him what I had done, he explained to me that I had just taken my scent and put it into a ziplock bag. I totally just scent-masked myself.

Side note: If you can smell someone without the aid of a dog, then you’re within 25 yards of them. (I figured this out also while stalking deer in the swamps of NC.)

Whenever you find yourself evading a dog, be sure to use 2 or more tactics to throw the dog off your trail. Unfortunately, what works for a dog, will not work for a human tracker.

How to Evade a Human Tracker

#1 Sweeping Dirt

We were on the run. My less experienced team member had gotten too close to the target that we were tasked with observing. Their boxer indicated on us – he noticed something or someone (us) was in the bushes and alerted his owner that something was up. Now they were in pursuit. They had deployed about 10 guys on four-wheelers and dirt bikes (I don’t know the actual number – I’m guessing based on the sounds that I heard.) Either way, men armed with AK-47s and God knows what else were looking for us.

We had to cross a path to get to the woods which was our only way out. The problem was that the path was all sand. Which made it perfect for leaving “sign” (sign is anything that proves a human was there. This could be anything from a thread of clothing, a broken branch at shoulder height, a boot print in the dirt, etc.)

Just as the last of the ATVs passed us, we sprinted across the path. I turned and looked back and realized that one of us left a beautiful boot print right on the path! I quickly grabbed a small branch that had fallen off of a pine tree. It still had some of the needles attached. I swept it back and forth on the ground until you couldn’t see the print any longer. Turning, I ran into the woods just before another ATV crept past us. The driver was intently looking at the path for sign, but was moving too fast and drove right over where I had just swept the dirt. As a result, he covered the mark up nicely with a tire track.

You can do this with any stick but one that has its leaves on it still will work even better. Just don’t break it off a tree (this will leave sign. Pick a stick from off the ground! – Also be sure to put it back right where you found it.)

You can also do this with your hands or a shirt if you need to. Unfortunately, it will not work on a trained human tracker. A professional and experienced human tracker is trained to pick up on tricks like that and will recognize that tactic. In my SERE course, I teach individuals counter-tracking tactics that you can use against a professional. However, it is very rare to have a human tracker and a trained track dog at the same time. There are only a select few in the world who are both a canine handler and a tracker. However, I will tell you that it has worked so many times for me that I literally cannot remember them all.

In all but 2 cases I used this very tactic to avoid detection. My targets never even knew I had ever been there. In the story above, covering our sign saved mine and two other guys’ lives.

#2 Crossing Water

If you come across moving water (think a creek or a small river) you can use this to throw off your tracker. It will not work for a tracking dog, but as you will see, I have a trick for that too. Remember that your footprint will leave a nice sign for a tracker to follow. Furthermore, it tells a dog handler that they are on the right track. You can use that to your advantage by leaving them one or two.

Don’t make it too obvious. Also if you’re able to make it to the far side of the waterway then that will work even better at convincing them that you did in fact cross.

Caution: don’t walk backwards in your own tracks! A tracker will see right through that and realize what you did. Instead, just cross the waterway. Run about 500 yards then scent mass the area. You want to be far enough to convince those tracking you that you’re not going to use the waterway. After scent massing the area, scent-mask your body with a poncho. Then walk at an angle back to the waterway. Be careful not to leave any sign!

When you reach the water, you want to be about 100 yards or more downstream from where you first crossed. Slowly take your time until you can find a spot to get into the water without leaving sign and walk downstream for about 1,000 yards. When you get out of the water, be sure to leave no sign and also conduct another scent massing. Then do a scent change. By changing scent you’ll have to roll in something else that smells different. Fecal matter is ideal but dirt will work if you’ve got nothing more pungent to work with. Or if happen to run across an extra set of clothing that doesn’t smell like you, but that is unlikely. (Be careful not to leave sign…Don’t disturb the nearby leaves or trees) and be on your way.

Side Note: When you’re walking in the water (again think of a creek), you’re disturbing the water bed. This causes debris to float in the water. Thus if you travel upstream, you’re sending debris downstream towards the people tracking you. But, by traveling downstream the water will carry the debris with you as you walk.

The moving water will quickly cover up your footprint and thus leave no sign for the tracker to follow. Basically, you just disappeared, and by the time the tracker figures it out…it’s too late. The scent massing and masking are just in case they are working with a tracking dog too. A real tracking team will do that, but it is very rare.

Side Note: If you do leave a track on the creek bed, just use the sweeping dirt method and then splash some water over it. That should dissolve the track efficiently enough.

In conclusion, I want to teach you two other things.

1: When evading be sure to use as many of these tactics as you can.

If you want to head north to your extraction point, then run south. Use whatever applicable tactic you can and then run east for 200-300 yards and deploy a different tactic. Then go south again for another 100-200 yards and deploy another. Head east again and deploy yet another anti-tracking tactic.

Only after you’re sure that you have thrown them off your trail can you start heading north to your extraction point. While the distances are really up to you, the idea is to take them in the opposite direction of where you’re really trying to go.

This leads me to point number 2: Have a plan for extraction! No matter whether you’re on a mission or just trying to live through SHFT in your own home, have a plan to get out fast. As we use to say in Recon, (Have one foot out the door and another on a banana peel).

When you get to your extraction point have a vehicle waiting for you. It doesn’t matter if you stage one prior or if you call in a buddy via radio to come and get you. You need a way to get out of the area fast. This totally removes you and any traceable sign out of the hands of the people tracking you.

I have personally seen a simple car pickup help the runner, both in cases where I was tracking a guy and where I was being tracked. In every one of these cases, the runner got away.

Would you like to learn more about Evasion, Survival, Resistance or Escape? Click here to pre-enroll in Tackleberry Solution’s upcoming SERE eCourse.

Useful links:

What would you do?

What would you do in such a situation? Do you have any thoughts to add? Do you have any experiences with tracking or evading tracking? Do you have questions? Let’s discuss it in the comments.

About Kit

Kit Arthur is the CEO and primary instructor for Tackleberry Solutions. his goal is to keep you alive and FREE by teaching you how to protect yourself against tyranny. He served for 13 years as a recon soldier and worked for 3 years in law enforcement. He currently works as a wartime tactics instructor and offers multiple online and in-person courses.

ESCAPE: How to Evade Trackers and Tracking Dogs
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59 Responses

    1. Agree totally about learning. I learn something new every day. However, this is NOT going to work for a disabled person, it will NOT work for the elderly or the blind. It will not be any good for those on oxygen whether they are 30 or 80…This is ONLY for the two-legged, two-armed human that is in good shape and most likely under the age of 60…Many Veterans have lost legs and have other issues with physical mobility. What about those who are not able to walk any distance?…Otherwise for the healthy able-bodied person good article…I will forward it.
      I will NOT be out doing that.

      1. Agreed.

        I can still crank out a respectable 24-25minute 3-mile.
        But my days of a 18:05 3-mile (my personal best) are long behind me.

      2. This, my friend, means you will confess your sins directly to God & then pray to God for HIS help and protection. He knows you can’t do it because of your medical condition. Then trust and rely on God for his protection. All who do this, will have the help of God and his angels.
        If the devil is your god, tough luck. You lose.

        1. Lords be. If we wanted practical advice from your favorite imaginary friend, we’d be taking survival skills from Blue’s Clues.

      3. If you’ve decided you cannot evade then you are on Deaths Ground.

        Make them pay full price for you. Or if your with a group be the rear guard to slow the trackers.

        As William Wallace said, “All men die, not all men truly live”.

  1. Great information thank you. In EU (Fourth Reich) we will get GM-jabadoo mandate and people will be hunted like game. We do have vast forests to vanish here in Finland but also excellent hunters with well trained dogs. These evasion tactics will be useful then when stasigestapo is tracking us.

    1. hey if you can carry a bit of bleach with you ….not nice for the dog but good for you acid works also and in some cases better again bad for the dog goos for you…any thing that will harm the dogs nose is good for you…..

      1. I’ve never heard of the bleach trick. I HAVE heard of using ammonia though. A dog hits a whiff of that and they can’t smell anything for around 2 hours. But, are you going to be carrying that stuff with you everywhere you go?

        1. i have in the past when i was younger and what i carried depended on what i could get a hold of at that particular moment just fill viles up that would seal tight35 mm film containers were my favorite now i would have to say old pill bottles zip lock bag work to but i would double bag the stuff and then have it in a larger bag outside of the pack….but to be honest with you i will most likly wind up being the rear gaurd for my group as i am not in good shape and never will be again but i am a good shot and i still have an ar and would be proud to defend my family one last time…..

    2. Hi Juha,

      Yes, as this is a global fake the stasigestapo will be in all countries soon. It takes alot of $$ and resources to setup a perimeter and hunt/track people. Likely they will go the cheap way and use satellites looking for new structures or thermal signatures.

      The deeper into the woods you are the more resources it requires. Stay in very small groups (12 ish) to make the cost-to-reward ratio poor.

      I’m hoping to be VERY uninteresting for them. If I’m being hunted like that (to be killed) you can bet I’m going to give the bad guys something to think about.

      100,000 km of high voltage trunk lines can’t be defended and the towers can be brought down with just a hacksaw blade (very portable). No power puts stress as they have to feed/keep warm the vaccinated/civilization.

      Railroad lines have a tendency to be disassembled under situations like that. Derailed supply trains means food riots for the bad guys to deal with AND food by the tracks.

      Plus, if I was trapped in a cattle car en route to a death camp I’d appreciate being derailed. Very much.

      IF they have to fight to keep civilization going they’ll have less resources to hunt people.

      James

  2. Excellent article with specific, real-world tips. Question: if you are the tracker and assume your target knows and is employing these or similar tactics, is there anything you can do to negate them or trip the target up? (Or is that the subject of a whole other article!)

    1. The very first thing that you should do when you know you are going to track someone, is to seal off the immediate area so that there is no way for them to get out. Then you push out about 10 miles and do it again just in case you were too late. The distance may vary depending on what they have. You may have to go out 30 miles. That is why the border patrol has check points a couple hours drive instead of right on the border. That is their secondary screen line. Next you’ll deploy drones overhead to pick up any flir movements or images. Third, use a real, no crap experienced tracker WITH a tracking dog. The issue with this is, not very many people have that kind of assets on hand that fast. – Also you’ll need to weigh cost vs reward. You may have to have everything sealed off for over 24 hours just to catch him.

  3. Excellent article on a topic I had never thought much about. I learned a great deal in such a short time reading this. Thank you so much!!

    1. I’m glad you liked the article. Let me know if there is anything else you’d be interested in learning about regarding wartime tactics, SERE and home defense. I’m always on the lookout for content great content ideas.

      1. Hi Kit,

        I’d love to know how to counter track when snow is all over the ground. How do you coverup/avoid leaving footprints everywhere?

        -James

        1. You don’t (unless there is a raging blizzard). Therefore use it to your advantage. Let it guide them into an ambush or anti-tracking device you have deployed. With an anti-tracking device, you will have a better feel for how close they are to you while still maintaining distance (Just listen for their screams). Then circle around and head back to where you started from. Depending on the situation, you might be able to steal/acquire their vehicle and effect a rapid escape. Just remember that anti-chase devices are something you kinda have to already have in your bag O’ goodies. Either way, painful delay devices will slow their pursuit down or stop it all together because they won’t know what’s coming around the next corner moving forward.

          These tactics and several others are all taught in our S.E.R.E. course.

          1. Kit:

            Are you going to be doing any in-person courses? I see you’re in NC, and I’m not that far away (VA).

            Let me know. Thanks.

            1. So I replied earlier with a few links to answer your question. While that’s waiting for approval I wanted to let you know that I do offer in-person training. You can find more information on that through Useful Links at the end of this article, the SERE ecourse page will tell give you an in-person training option to give you a better idea of what it is about.

              You may also be interested in my home defense offer where I help you design your own personalized security plan along with the applicable training involved. Its 100% one on one and I don’t keep records so no worries on privacy. Just type in my website address/home-security-plan/ if you want to learn more, that should take you to the right page.

              I don’t get alerts when someone comments on this page, so if you’ve got anymore questions, your best bet is to email or call me. Info on my contact page.

  4. Really interested in this article and read your blog almost daily. But had to quit reading because the ads make the content jump up and down. Printing it isn’t great – can you add a print/pdf function to the website. I know you need the ads to finance your work, but now I don’t want to read.

    1. Hi JM: I lost a lot of my sight but I’ve found a work-around with internet articles. I don’t know if this works on Windows but it probably will.

      1. Open up a word processing application – most of them will work.
      2. Select the body of the article that you want to ‘read’ and click “copy”.
      3. Paste that copied article on to your word app page, and click “Select all”
      4. On the Edit menu, there should be a “Speech command”

      Your computer should then read the article to you. You may be able to choose the voice, and it may sound a bit ‘robotic’ – the mispronunciations will make you laugh! – but it’s free. Hope this helps!

      I really enjoyed this article – thanks, Kit!

  5. good article very basic but basics work you should include how to eliminate dogs also with acids bases chemicals that burn flesh traps ect dogs that breath acid fumes will stop following you and the point is for you to get away people become to close to there animals and stop thinking of them as tools or weapons that can be lost forever in a heartbeat and when you harm there animals its like a knife in their heart which will also bring an end to the search just bear in mind all is fair in war and the only acceptible outcome is for you to win period…………….

    1. let your enimee die for his cause so that you live to kill more of your enimees in the days weeks months to come……

  6. I learned some good things Kit. Scent massing and putting my scent in a ziplock bag! Wow! I can only imagine your buddy about crapping his pants when you simply stood up-here I am !! LOL
    Really good stuff to know just in case.
    Thanks for sharing.

  7. Never gave tracking much thought till we purchased the farm.
    With the livestock, I could see their tracks in different medium (dirt, mud, even snow). I also knew how big they were, and see their different strides.
    Same with the dogs.
    My one dog is a medium sized dog, but has small feet. His prints in mud were deeper than the other dogs with larger paws.
    I also watched how they walked, their tracks, and how different their tracks were when at a run.

    Deer tracks too. Was scouting for an area to set up for deer season, came across a set of tracks where the deer jumped across the brook and then walked away.
    Also when walking the dogs, flushed out two does. They ran away through one of the sections were the cows had already grazed. I tried to find any tracks, but could not (mostly pasture, few weeds, no mud or exposed dirt).

    Winter is a good time to see what is really out and about in the snow. Yesterday the dogs and I came across two sets of deer tracks and one set of what I think is a dog gone feral. His tracks have been around for about two years now.

    A note on scent: I have been out in the fields and the hogs or goats been able to smell me even when they could not see me, from a good 100 yrds off. Other times I have been able to walk up on them, get within a dozen yards before they knew I was there. Just depends on the wind.

    1. To add: Two interesting sets of tracks I have seen in the winter.

      1) Out walking the dogs, by this time I required snowshoes as the snow was that deep, came across what looked like someone had used a sled. Saw this in more than a few places.
      Then one day, out walking the dogs again, and in the distance I saw a flock of turkeys. As they walked, their bodies would float atop the snow, smoothing out their feet tracks and leaving a “sled” like track behind. And they walked single file.

      2) Looked like a hawk got a rabbit. Some fur and blood. But what was neat was when the hawk landed/took the rabbit or when it took off with the rabbit, it left a clear imprint of its wings in the snow.

  8. Great information and a well written article. I believe that you are a new contributor to TOP and I’d wish to welcome you and say that I look forward to reading future contributions.

    Thanks again!

  9. There was a guy many years ago (and some might know him) that taught how to HIDE if they come looking for you. He taught many people and organizations how to hide. It was so effective that a lady took a course and they didn’t even see her as they urinated in the bushes right on her or near her I think. Then she surprised them. Boy, were they shocked.

    Bascially, his technique was, of course, to BLEND in your surroundings and he told them HOW to do BLEND in.

    1. Annnd we skipped IR and LIDAR day at school. No. Unless terrain, weather, signal and LRE are aligned. You’ve got a better shot at a date on Yom Kippur yhan to use a “drone” ( which are vrry much not drones) to track.

    1. well that’s kind of a limited awareness horizon, don’t you think? the tracker and the dog aren’t the only ones involved.

  10. A great resource this is Kit and even if I am not in the shape to move fast or far perhaps the mindset this instills will save my ass sometime.

    1. That’s the goal, to save lives! … and learn cool stuff. Let me know if there is anything else you’d like to see me write about. Glad that you liked the article.

    1. Thank you. Let me know if there is something else you’d like to see me write about. I’m always open for content ideas.

  11. Good article. One thing I learned about dogs that track from a former human tracker is that a dog with his nose to the ground can be somewhat easy to avoid with anti-dog tracking evasive skills and showed me several methods to do so.

    He then added that a dog tracking with his nose in the air is almost impossible to evade. He said the best thing to do is shoot it. That also throws the tracker for a loop since they are usually close to their dogs and gives you additional time to escape. I’d like your opinion of these statements.

    1. Shooting the dog will work, but I prefer to shoot the handler. The dog ain’t going to shoot you. You’re right that a dog and its handler work as a team, thus take out one, and the team stops.

      As for the tracking with their noise in the air; yes that’s pretty close to right. Dogs that do that are usually found in colder climates with lots of snow. Therefore they are taught to hunt, not follow. Scent changing or masking will work with them, but scent massing will not. That’s why I advise deploying 2-3 different tactics before making your movement towards your final destination. Also, if you can do a rapid extraction, than do it.

  12. Thanks again Kit, new understanding for me. I have two questions regarding dog tracking . First, Could ‘scent lure ‘ like deer urine, coyote urine, etc. used by trappers be an effective mask or ‘new scent’ for an evader? It seems to me that could work either for or against him. Secondly, if an evader was in communication with friendies (specifically those unable to ‘go to ground’ posing as ‘innocent squirrel hunters) could they muck up his scent trail, and if so with what? My understanding is that dogs will focus on the original scent and not be thrown off by pepper, etc.

    1. OK, that’s going to take a minute to really explain how and why…So to answer in short: 1. Yes, you can totally do that. It’s called scent changing (I cover that in our e-course). I did that on a real-life mission with horse crap. Just rubbed all over me and my face. The dog came right up to me, smelled me, then ran off to harass the horses. However, if you can carry deer piss, why not carry scent off? Doesn’t smell as bad. 2. Pepper will only stun the dog’s sense of smell for a few days/hours. So yes it can work. I know guys that carry cayenne pepper in their IFAK just for that purpose. The issue is that the dog doesn’t follow your trail exactly. This is due to the wind drifting your scent. It’s very hard to predict where the dog is going to go unless you’re running on a trail in the woods. Also if you have a commo linkup, why not get an extraction via vehicle? That will end the whole thing right there. I can’t tell you how many times that has worked. I hope I answered your question. If not call me or send me an email. https://tackleberrysolutions.com/contact/

  13. Hi,
    Interesting article.
    Question: during the scent massing, could you leave an article of clothing/material with your scent on it (e.g. bandana with sweat on it) laced with cocaine or some other drug that would affect the dog thereby buying time for you to open the gap between the trackers and yourself?

    1. You sir are getting dangerously close to thinking outside the box (that’s a good thing). Yes, that will work. But it is a gamble. 1. You just gave the tracking team your scent. And one they can re-introduce to the animal when and as needed. So to mitigate that you make sure that it’s a brand new bandana and keep it in a zip-lock bag. (Another trick is to rub it all over a dog in heat or another person then put it in the bag. If the handler attempts to introduce this to the dog it will confuse them as to which target they are after.) Also, coat it with pepper spray instead of cocaine. It will have a quicker effect. And is easier to get your hands on. 2. There is a chance that the dog/handler may not find the article. Also, most handlers (like me) will not use an article to track with unless I can prove it came off the target’s body. I usually use a footprint to get my dogs started on the right trail, as you don’t always get an article of clothing. So while your idea is a gamble, it’s worth a try if you do it right.

  14. Really motivating article.

    To the readers I’d encourage doing some research on morning/evening dynamics of thermals, how to avoid detection by handler teams caused by them and also scent eddy’s, what causes them and how they too should be avoided.

    1. I’m glad that you liked the article. Good advice on doing research. Knowledge is power. The more you know, the better!

  15. We need to have family trained in patrolling, Lp/Op, basic troop movements and tactics, and counter insurgency operations. Any info/articles you could share on that would be appreciated.

  16. I wonder how well these tactics will work in a situation where there are not only canine and human trackers, but also drones outfitted with both video and iR cameras? What will need to be updated? The technology is already available, all that needs to be done is to implement it.

    1. Thankfully not everyone has drones. Even better, not every drone has IR/FLIR cameras. But there are tactics that will give you the ability to evade drones as well. I cover a few of those in our e-course. Why? Because as you have pointed out, that technology is already out there and readily available. I mean think about it like this, even the Taliban uses drones. Furthermore, what is worse, there are drones that can detect VHF/UHF signals and assist the controller in pinpointing your location.

      The tactics used for evading dogs are different from evading humans. And likewise, the tactics for evading drones is a whole different ball game. Thus you will want to use the evasion tactic to drop off the dog first, then the human, and then think about drones. They typically take a little longer to get them up and running. Think of it like this, almost every Sheriff department has a K-9 on every shift. But not evey department has a drone, and those that do usually only have one operator for it. Also, I’ve found that human trackers are even more scarce.

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