Thursday, April 19, 2012


Our obedience/rally-o teacher also teaches tracking so I thought it would be fun to learn something new. It's really neat and different! Different in that you aren't telling the dog to do anything, they are just using their natural sense of smell and following a trail, that is all. It felt very low pressure and easy. I'm going to try to do it a few times a week at the park and see how far we go with it. There are no tracking tests being held in Idaho at this time so we'll probably never enter one but you never know.
Things you need to get started:

A leather glove, some sort of marker, like these flags from Home Depot, and lots of treats that are easily seen by the dog, like string cheese torn into little strips.

You will also need a harness for your dog. Amber is modeling my homemade fleece lined harness.

Find a big open grassy area with not a lot of people to start with. Your yard doesn't work well since it's already covered in your tracks. To begin with, either have your dog in a sit stay, in a kennel or tied up somewhere that they can watch what you are doing. Pick a landmark like a tree to make a straight line from where you start. Put a flag in the ground at the start line. Place a piece of string cheese at the start. Taking normal steps walk in a straight line toward your landmark placing a piece of cheese in every footstep. Don't make it too long at first, maybe 20 or 30 feet. Put the leather glove at the end of your track and put some pieces of cheese in the glove. Place another flag at the end. Then walk straight another 10 feet or so and make a wide turn to come back to where you left your dog, making sure you are well away from your track.

Hopefully your dog has been watching you, wondering what you are doing with Her cheese and wants to find that cheese now. Take the leash and point to the first piece of cheese and say READY??? TRACK!
You are supposed to be well behind your dog, and in a test I believe my teacher said you use a 30 foot lead, but I just used my 6 foot leash to start with. Amber immediately followed the track, vacuuming up cheese.

They are not supposed to lift their noses from the ground and the leash is supposed to have a little tension in it. If they start following your track right away, eating the cheese, don't say anything to them, just let them work. If they get off the track or become distracted, just point at the ground and the next piece of cheese and say TRACK!

When they get to the glove at the end, throw a party! Give them treats out of the glove, make the glove very exciting. In a test they have to indicate to you in some way that they have found the glove, by looking at it or they can even pick it up and give it to you.

Apparently some dogs like the tracking so much that they don't stop at the end of the cheese trail, they keep on sniffing past the glove, so don't encourage that since you want finding the glove to be the rewarding part.
Don't put any turns in your track for a little while and start with cheese in every footstep, slowly working your way up to every other footstep, every third step and so on.

I got very excited about this! Can you tell? It sounds so simple but it was a lot of fun watching her sniffing the ground and wondering what she was smelling. I know in the beginning she is just sniffing for the cheese but just imagine your dog tracking a 400 yard track that has been aged for an hour in the rain and wind with who knows what else having crossed that track and you are just holding the leash, trusting your dog...

1 comment:

Hiking Hounds said...

I have always wanted to try this, it looks so fun. My friend is starting and we might join.