More Nose Fun; The Game of Tracking Continued
In the last installment, we discussed the reasons to teach your dog to track.
Let’s face it, dog’s like to sniff and giving them an outlet to do it is nice for them and it can keep them from pulling us on the leash when we don’t want to be pulled.
Sometimes we need to give them an outlet for their instincts!
I love teaching my dogs to track human scent.
I sometimes even like to teach them scent detection, but that is a different game!
So, if you missed our first installment click here and get started So You’ve Got a Sniffer?? Why Not Teach Him to Track? Getting Started
You’ve gone from a scent pad and now we need to teach him more!
What You Will Need:
- A Spray Bottle with your “Scent in a Bottle”
- Rubber Boots or the same basic shoes (use the same ones each time in the beginning)
- 2 Flags
- Treats (you can use your dog’s food or something good like hot dogs)
- A can of sardines (packed in water)
- A Harness for your Dog
- A Long Leash (at least 6 feet in the beginning then 25 to 50 feet as your dog learns and excels)
I always get my dog excited prior to tracking by getting him all riled up and asking him “Do you want to go tracking? Do you want to go tracking?” then I put him in his crate while I go lay his track.
Now, if your dog is already “off the chain excitable” you can skip this 😉 no need to get your eyes scratched out or get him so excited he can’t concentrate! But some dogs (especially those not genetically disposed to scent training may need some help).
This gives his crate a good connotation and lets him know we are about to track. It also gets him use to this behavior if we go anywhere else for training.
Next Go Outside
Find an unadulterated patch of grass where other people and dogs have not necessarily wandered that day (a park has too many scents for your dog to distinguish against in the beginning). I want it to be easy from the start!
Spray your shoes or boots with your stinky scent.
The first thing you are going to do is start with a scent patch about 4ft by 4 ft in a square you are going to scratch your feet around making sure to crush the grass and get your scent all over that specific area, you may go over it a couple of times.
As you scratch around you are going to deposit hot dogs or treats all over in that area.
Don’t go crazy by using too many treats, but make sure you get a decent amount of treats here for your dog to find and start to get excited.
This area is going to get him use to smelling scent and finding treats, and is something you will do each time you lay a track.
Put a flag in the grass to the left of where you are about to lay your scent patch (so you know where it actually is).
Pick a tree or something straight in front of you to keep your eye on to make sure your track is straight.
It is essential that YOU lay as straight a track as possible, veering to the left or right or curving may confuse you and your dog later. Trust me, when you come back to your track you may not remember EXACTLY where it is… yet you need to be sure!
This is why tracking in the dew in the morning can be beneficial because you can see your tracks in the grass!
Now you are going to drag and scuff your feet in a VERY straight line for about 10 feet.
Put a piece of hot dog or treat every foot or two as you very methodically make your straight line forward.
At the end of your 10 feet stop and scuff your feet around as the end of the track.
Set your flag in front of you to mark the end of the track.
And, dump the can of sardines or a portion of sardines at the end of the track as the FINAL excitement and to mark that the track is done.
Now JUMP as far as you can from this spot to the right or left of the track and then go WAY around the area so as not to cross track the track you have just laid (yes it is that important).
Now wait about 5 to 15 minutes for the scents to mingle together and become stronger for your dog to track.
Put his harness on him and click your leash to his harness and take him out to the scent patch.
Point to the patch and tell him “track” or “Search” or whatever your word is as you point to the treats in the scent patch.
Allow him to sniff and find the treats, if he misses one don’t worry.
Once he has found most of them, take him just to the right of the flag (where you laid your track) and command him to “Track” or “Search” as you point to the treats.
Remember he doesn’t know what he is doing yet.
If he is confused, help him by pointing down to the treats.
Don’t panic if he misses a few treats
Allow him to move forward toward the end of the track
If he comes off of where you KNOW the track is (you must be sure) stand still and let him sniff around and don’t move forward until he is back on the track.
Move forward slowly as he makes his way to the end.
The sardines are the “jackpot” for tracking well.
Be sure and pat his sides and praise him for a track well run!
Keep tracking at this level you can begin to make it longer after a week or two for several weeks so he understands.
If he is wanting to RUN the track, slow him down by standing still and not letting him pull too fast forward! Tracking should be slow and methodical!
If he comes off the track stop and wait for him to come back into the track, you will get use to knowing when he smells it.
As he excels you may make the tracks longer, use less treats on your scent pad, use less treats in your track, and age them longer. However don’t do all these things at once!
It is important to make sure your dog is successful before you move him forward.
This is not a type training that should be rushed or he will begin to come off of the scent and you will both get frustrated.
If his head is coming up from the track you may put his leash under his front right shoulder as you move with him, this keeps his head in more of a natural down position.
Eventually you can make the track yards long.
Then you can add corners (don’t do this too fast, or you will lose your dog), I double stamp my corners so that he is sure where they go and I mark them with squeeze chalk on the edges so that I can see them and know if he is going in the right direction.
It is essential that you always know where the track is, and that you understand that tracks that “blow” in the wind may take your dog a foot or two off the track, this is normal and sometimes you must learn to trust your dog’s nose.
The next step after making it longer, using less and less treats, adding corners and then eliminating treats would be having someone else lay your track for you and your dog, to see if you are working as a team, however this takes months and months of fun tracking work!
I have been a professional dog trainer and pet sitter for over 20 years. I am a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, through the international Certification Counsel of Professional Dog Trainers. I have trained and worked with police, Schutzhund and personal protection dogs. I trained Assistance Dogs in a men’s prison and ran my own nonprofit organization to take adult dogs from shelters and to train them to assist children and adults with disabilities, at no charge to my clients. My nonprofit organization and I were nominated for several awards of merit and even made the front page of the Denver Post. I was a veterinary technician for many years, where I learned about all aspects of health and preventative medicine. I have trained and worked with exotic animals and cheetahs. I introduced a temperament testing program in my local shelter and sat on the board of directors. I volunteered with my dog “Mr. Snitch” and helped local children learn to read. I have attained obedience titles and several blue ribbons. I am constantly in search of ways to continue my education and excellence when it comes to animals, their behavior and their health.