Teaching A Dog to Track--Help!

Discussion in 'Dog Sports' started by tx_cowgirl, Dec 11, 2009.

  1. tx_cowgirl Honored Member

    I'm trying to get started teaching one of my dogs to follow a blood trail(for hunting purposes). I know it's easiest to have the dog know how to follow a trail first, and have a command for it. I'm just at a loss as to where to start. I have a dog with a great nose, and a desire to track, but I don't know where to begin or how. Will they take a natural interest in the scent? Do they lose interest quickly? (Of course, I realize every dog will have a different attention span.) My dog is very highly motivated by toys, but also food....should I use food at the end of the track as a low-level reward, and a toy at the end as a jackpot?
    Maybe I'm overthinking this, but I just don't know where to start. Any tips please?

  2. charmedwolf Moderator

    I'm assuming this would be with deer hunting, right? I've helped my uncle train dogs on blood trails before. I haven't helped in a while but I'll tell you what I can though.

    Training started around 8-12 weeks for some but most were started by 17 weeks, others earlier. We started them following a piece of deer hide on a rope or a piece of liver just right out in front of them. It was usually extremely bloody. Then we'd start adding distance only a couple of yards away from them dragging it on the ground. After they consistently follow a trail of only 5 yard make the trails long by about 5 yards. When you get to around 100 yards switch to using only blood, as much as you think they need. After they have been following a trail consistently, age the track for about 2 hrs at this point. Also, lay some tracks on bare dirt which forces the dog to breath in deeply to draw in the scent up off the ground, thus developing a dog with a "deeper nose". This will help you later on in tracking when you get a track that has very little or no blood. Always leave something at the end of the tracks as a reward, either a food treat (canned food is big here) or a piece of hide or something along those lines.

    If I remember anything else or get to talk to him I'll add to it.
  3. tx_cowgirl Honored Member

    I do have some deer blood frozen currently for this purpose. We hunt turkey, wild hogs, deer, elk, and occassionally exotics(exotic rams, blackbuck, axis, fallow, etc); so he could be tracking anything. I've been told by other people who trained theirs for blood trailing that the type of blood doesn't really matter. So do I start with tracks on bare dirt, or advance to that later? This dog is about 4 years old; I got him early this year. I will be getting a Lacy pup in the spring, which will be my "main" blood dog, but Dakota is still a good candidate and I thought it would be good for the both of us to learn together so perhaps I'll know a little more when I start with the Lacy. I also have a coworker who is wanting to train his for bloodtrailing. I've told him I'm very, very new to it but that I will help him if he'd like. So that's one more to help me learn. :) Thank you very much for your tips.
  4. stripe New Member

    All of my dogs (lurchers and terriers) seem to pick it up naturaly but they are mainly used on rabbits (all that we can now hunt legaly with dogs in this country) but pre ban used to do foxes and deer, as pups they were left to sniff while walking developing their noses and their ability to hunt up.
    Hope this helps
  5. tx_cowgirl Honored Member

    Thanks Stripe. :) Next week I'll be starting him. ^^ I've been working on advancing his basics as he is way behind my other dogs. I thought about still trying my most advanced BC for this because I've spent a lot of time off-leash training her and her obedience is almost flawless. So, she's the more trustworthy dog, but....AWFUL sense of smell, lol! But I still might see what she can do, maybe, just for kicks. I think Kota will enjoy this type of work though, because he loves to use that nose. So he'll have the desire to do it.
  6. tx_cowgirl Honored Member

    I just bought two books off of Amazon---Try Tracking!: the Puppy Tracking Primer by Carolyn A. Krause, and Scenting on the Wind: Scent Work for Hunting Dogs by Susan Bulanda. I think they will be helpful. Anyone read these?
  7. fickla Experienced Member

    i no nothing about tracking and haven't read those 2 books, but I have heard good things about "making scents of tracking" by deborah davis

    edit: although i think it's mainly designed for tracking tests, like akc. it's what my obedience clubs recommends for the tracking students.
  8. charmedwolf Moderator

    I've read Try Tracking! and it's one of the better books out there as is Making scents of Tracking but I haven't read Scenting on the Wind.

    I wouldn't start right away on dirt, maybe grass? Only because I know when I started training my mastiff in blood tracking (in dirt no less) he snorted some dirt in his nose and started sneezing the first couple of times as he was a "deep sniffer" already. Only after that did my uncle give the tip of starting on grass and leaves. It get the dogs motivated as the smell is stronger and it is a lot easier on them as well.
  9. tx_cowgirl Honored Member

    I would say Dakota probably falls into the "deep sniffer" category.
    Of the land I have access to, I have:
    -A mowed field
    -A field with about 3-4 acres with thick grass about 4-6 inches tall
    -A field with wild grass roughly a foot high(but not thick--used to be farmed, and grass now grows there)
    -A very overgrown field
    -Relatively unlevel terrain with grass and other plant life of varying sizes
    -A thick, overgrown field with grass and various plantlife

    (These are all different areas, of course.)

    From what I've found so far, most say to start in a mowed area, so this is probably where I will begin training. I've also found, from research, that I am supposed to start with a generous amount of blood, and close together; and that the whole track should be short at first. I am supposed to gradually increase the distance between drops of blood, increase the total distance, and decrease the amount of blood I use, although not all together at once.

    Making Scents of Tracking is on my Amazon wish list as well. I have heard good things about the two books I ordered, as well as Scent and the Scenting Dog and Tracking Dogs to Find Wounded Deer. The two books I bought the other day were cheap cheap cheap, so I decided to go with those for now.
  10. tx_cowgirl Honored Member

    Haven't started reading yet, but I got Scenting on the Wind today and skimmed through it. Really like it! One section I kind of skimmed over was saying that if your dog "refuses" to work for you, the reasons could be because of an underlying health issue, a mistake in training, doesn't understand it thoroughly, you've punished the dog or are frustrated so they are stressed, etc....not once did she mention shocking your dog when they "refuse" to work, or forcing them into anything. She seems big on making sure that you do NOT punish the dog or push them into something they aren't ready for. I am very pleased that she is not the typical shock-happy hunting trainer. (Many, if not most, believe that if you dog does not comply with your commands, they are simply being stubborn and you have to shock them. It's not that you haven't trained them well enough, or that they are still young and early in their training...it's just that they are simply being stubborn, and a good shock will cure this. :dogtongue:)

    She explains the difference between negative reinforcement and punishment, and very clearly states that punishing your dog will not result in a willing partner who is happy to work. She uses positive reinforcement only. The dogs in her book have all titled, and were all trained using positive/reward-based training. She also has very thorough explanations on how to take the weather into account and help your dog become better able to track in all conditions. There are also grid patterns and handler tips in this book. I am very pleased and I haven't even fully read it yet!

    Try Tracking! hasn't come in yet, looking forward to that one too.

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