The Dog Knows: Part 4

by Janet Finsilver
Get ready for MURDER IN THE WINE COUNTRY by Janet Finsilver with a look back at some of the inspiration for the series!

In Murder at the Marina, Deputy Sheriff Bill Stanton, a regular in the Kelly Jackson mystery series, is taking care of Gus, a trained bloodhound belonging to a fellow officer who is on vacation. Gus is an excellent tracker and his skills are utilized more than once in the book.

Bloodhounds are scent hounds that have been around for centuries. Originally, they were bred for hunting deer and wild boar. The American Kennel Club refers to them as “Sleuth Hounds.” The breed has a reputation as a tracker that can follow a scent several days old.


They are a favorite of law enforcement and search and rescue. A diary is kept for professional dogs to show what they’ve been working on and how well they’ve done. Many courts accept their “testimony” when it comes to identifying a subject.

The word stubborn was used in several articles to describe them. The hardheaded hounds are persistent when they are on a track. This is one of the traits that makes them excel in their work. When they’re searching, they can be out all day and into the night. They don’t want to quit until they find the end of the trail. If the dog loses the scent, he will cast about for long periods of time to regain it.

The dogs wear a tracking harness. It has a ring on the top above the shoulders that attaches to a leash. This prevents the hound’s head from being pulled up if the lead becomes tight. The length of the leash varies depending on the trainer. It’s important the dog can move freely in front of the handler. The hound is given a scent article that the person they are searching for has touched, a command is given, and off the dog and handler go.

shutterstock_1648782595There are a number of different methods that can be used for training the dogs to track. I went to an introductory class and was instructed to bring hot dogs cut into nickel size pieces and some articles of clothing that I wouldn’t mind losing or having destroyed. The handler, in this case me, was instructed to act like a post embedded in the ground while holding onto the dog. A partner created a trail of hot dog slices about a foot and a half apart. There are several treats and an article of clothing at the beginning and the end of the trail.

My partner turned to the right after putting down the last pile of hot dogs, walked about six feet, and then came back to the road we were on. We had been instructed not to walk back over the track we’d made. The first pile of treats was easy for my dog to find because she could see it. However, it took her a while to find the next one. She eventually got the idea and moved forward to find more hot dog slices. After these first steps, the course lengthens, as does the space between treats as the dogs advance in their training.

Gus not only tracks, but his owner has taught him the command “hold.” When the hound hears this, he plants all four feet on a person who is on the ground. This helps to catch a crook in Murder at the Marina.

Rex, a cattle dog, makes his appearance in Murder in the Wine Country which releases April 28, 2020. He is a seizure alert dog. Please join me for “The Dog Knows” Part Five to learn more about the skills of this type of dog.

MURDER AT THE MARINA by Janet FinsilverShe’s got to solve this—or her friends are sunk…

Kelly Jackson, manager of the Redwood Cove Bed and Breakfast, is fond of the Doblinsky brothers, Ivan and Rudy, members of the Silver Sentinels, a crew of crime-solving senior citizens in their Northern California seaside hamlet. After she discovers a jewel-encrusted dagger—with what appears to be dried blood on the blade—on their fishing boat, they share their family history with Kelly, and she learns that the knife may be part of a set from their long-ago childhood in Russia. Its sudden reappearance is eerie, but the mystery grows much more serious when a body is found on the boat. The victim was a member of the community and part of the Russian Heritage Festival, and some of the organizers were clearly harboring some bitterness. But the story behind this murder seems as layered as a nesting doll—and Kelly’s feeling completely at sea . . .