How do I teach my dog to track?
The good news is that dogs do not need to learn how to track. It comes naturally! Dogs are born blind and it is the innate ability to track that enables them to reach the mother's nipple. Your role is simply to encourage their ability and motivate them to find what you are searching for by following the correct scent trail.
How can I get involved in tracking trials?
The first step is to join a tracking club. Visit the Australian National Kennel Council (ANKC) website and you will be directed to a tracking club in your state. Some private dog training schools also offer tracking workshops. Your dog will need to pass a Preliminary Tracking qualification test to be eligible to enter a tracking trial. These tests are held throughout the year and at most open obedience trials. This test involves the dog following a 300 metre track with a 90 degree turn to find the track layer at the end.
Tracking trials are held throughout Australia usually in semi rural areas during the cooler months of the year. To compete you must become a member of the ANKC. Tracking involves the dog following a scent trail left by a human. The dog uses its powerful sense of smell to locate articles of clothing and or people. Tracking trials are divided into classes according to the level of competency achieved by the dog. Tracks are usually laid very early in the morning to prevent them being contaminated by other human scents.
We asked Jenny Pearce of A Perfect Spot Dog Training School in Melbourne to give us some tips on how to start teaching our dogs to track. Give this a go. I'm sure your dog will find it a heap of FUN and who knows you may unleash a potential tracking champion!
Encourage your dog to sniff the ground by hiding a tasty treat in the grass. Point to the treat and encourage your dog to find it.
Scatter a handful of treats over a small area of grass. Encourage your dog to sniff at the grass and discover the treats. As your dog sniffs say "Find It" in an encouraging tone of voice. Praise your dog as they find the treats.
Choose a new area of grass (one that you haven't yet walked on) to lay a short track for your dog. Walk in a straight line placing a treat in each of your footsteps. Put your dog's favourite toy at the end of the track. When you have finished be careful not to walk back over your track. Take a wide arc back to your dog to avoid doing so.
This is the exciting part. Have your dog on a loose leash (longer is better). Show your dog where the start of the track is by pointing to the ground and saying "Find It". Stand behind your dog and continue to encourage them to sniff for the treats. If your dog moves past a treat stand still and wait until they are back on course before continuing forwards.
When your dog reaches the end of the track and finds the toy it is time for play and lots of it! Remember, these sessions are all about fun so reward your pooch with some tasty treats for a job well done! By making these sessions a fun experience for your dog, chances are they will enjoy the training experience and more than likelyshow extra effort next time around.