How to Train Your Dog for Tracking

Dogs are very famous for tracking their way to their owners or homes.

Now, tracking comes naturally for dogs, and in fact, they start while very young, by using their noses to locate their mother’s breast in order to nurse. But sometimes, you need to train your dog to improve their tracking abilities.

Your job as the trainer will simply be to perfect this natural instinct, and it can even be a sort of game you can play with your puppy, so, have fun!

You can teach a dog three things at once;

  • How to track or trail on the ground.
  • How to air scent.
  • How to identify scented objects.

The reason that the above 3 can taught simultaneously is because they use the same scenting skills that the dog uses normally.

All of these can be done simultaneously because they employ the same scenting skills.

In this article, I will list out two ways in which you can training your dog for tracking. However, there might be other ways too. You can always let me know which method works best for you. We will start with a very easy method and then proceed to an advanced method.

Training using a snack – hot dogs:

  1. Find the right area to carry out the training – a field that has grass is most ideal.
In order to teach a dog how to track, you shall need some treats and a grassy area, such as a park.

While you can try training the dog with any good meat packed food, hot dogs seem to work the best.

We all know that hot dogs are not the most nutritious. But they tend not to overstuff your dog’s belly.

  1. Let the dog sit, lie down, or stay. Then, take a couple of the hot dogs, crush them with your feet, and they mash them into the grass. With the residue of the hot dogs at the bottom of your shoe walk in a straight line away from the dog. 
  2. Every few feet, drop a piece of the hot dog and may be also drop something that you own or something that belongs to the dog.  
  3. The next step is to tell your dog to find the glove. Let your dog sniff the hot dogs and follow the scent. If the dog follows the trail, then praise the dog. Do not be too enthusiastic so not to distract him as he follows the track you have laid out for him.
  4. As the dog is following the track of hot dogs that you smashed and those that you laid out on the ground, he is also following your voice and your scent which he knows very well. You can make it interesting by including curves and corners and even dropping other items, but, make it clear you want him to follow the hot dog track only.

Here is a quick video that goes through the entire steps above:

How to Train Your Dog for Tracking - Tracking Harness

Training using a track line:

This is a much more advanced track training, and you will need to follow the following steps;

  1. Make use of a track line together with a tracking harness. The track line will serve as a way to communicate with your dog. They are normally made of leather, rope or webbing, and they basically attach to the dog’s collar in order to track the harness.

 

 

Few pointers:

  • A rope may be inexpensive, but, it can burn your hands if used without gloves.
  • Leather is good, as it has a natural feel, and is less likely to burn, but with time, it stretches.
  • A tracking line that is made of webbing is much more durable compared to the rest. An ideal webbing should be 3/8 to 1/2 inches in thickness.
  • Track lines will basically vary in length, but, a good 20 feet will be sufficient for your track training.
  1. Create a track for your dog to follow. To do this, you will need a large outdoor space. You will also need to use a few other items to create a track. You can use flags, food morsels, and two different items. These two objects will include; One that you want your dog to find, and another one that your dog will need to sniff before he starts tracking.
Tips:

  • Objects made of fabrics such as socks and gloves are ideal since they can hold a scent very well.
  • Place a flag at the beginning of the track, another one at the end. This should be at least 10-15 feet apart, then, place several other flags in between so your dog will know how to walk in a straight line.
  • Spread food along the track, starting from the beginning, taking few steps at a time till the end of the track. They should be a few inches apart.  Place the first object at the end of the track.
  1. Now stand next to your dog. When you finish laying down the track, walk back to where your dog is, but do not follow the track. This is because, if you follow the track, you may confuse him. The best thing is to hop sideways, off track, back to your dog. Attach the track line to the dog’s harness at the starting point of the track. If you need to walk him to the track, then, attach the track line to the collar first. This is done so the dog associates the track line-track harness to the tracking.
  2. Encourage your dog to track: After you have done the attaching of the track line to the harness, pull out the second object from the plastic bag, and let your dog sniff it. Give him some verbal clue, and let him go in front of you and start tracking. Using your hands, feed him more track lines as he goes down the line.
    As he goes down the line, when he retrieves the second object, walk up to him immediately and reward him with a verbal praise plus, a treat. Shorten the track line distance as you walk up to him. Detach the track line from his harness and put it back on his collar, while you lead him away from the track.

Conclusion

Now, those were the two options to train your dog to track. Which one of the above worked for you? Let me know in the comments section.

If you are looking for the best dog tracker system with GPS, I have written another article recently about that.

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