ATTENTION BEGINNING OR POTENTIAL TRACKERS
To gin the TD title dog must pss one KC trcking test which is usully bout qurter mile in length with three to five turns ged between onehlf nd one hour old nd glove t the end. I wnt the dog to WNT to find the glove t the end of the trck.
This month, I will begin a series of articles on beginning tracking training. They are designed to give those who have never tracked an indication of what to expect and provide problem-solving ideas for experienced trackers. I hope readers find this series useful.
For those of you who don't know, AKC tracking is a non- competitive sport in which your dog follows an unmarked course of human scent through a field. To gain the "TD" title, a dog must pass one AKC tracking test, which is usually about a quarter mile in length, with three to five turns, aged between one-half and one hour old and a glove at the end. If you haven't tried tracking, you're missing a lot of fun! This series of articles will show you how to start.
My tracking philosophy is one of motivation. I want the dog to WANT to find the glove at the end of the track. All my training methods are designed to encourage the dog's motivation and to provide him with the skills to accomplish this. This is quite the opposite of obedience, for example, since I do not force dogs to track. Some tracking trainers force dogs to track, and have some success. Due to the Basset Hound's stubborn independence and low energy temperament, I have found that motivation usually works best.
I suggest you always take new information in the context of your knowledge about your dog. Your dog is unique in temperament, ability, intelligence, lifestyle and health. Don't let anyone tell you there is only one true way to train. If something doesn't work for your dog, then don't do it any more! The method I am about to describe can be modified to accommodate your dog's unique qualities. Consider it as a general guide; not an abso- lute procedure for every dog.
Before beginning your training, you need to find a flat field, with good short grass or other vegetation. You need at least an acre or two to start a single dog. The important thing in the beginning is motivating the dog. This means making the activity fun and easy, so avoid thistles, uneven terrain or other negative things in the field that might discourage the dog. Also, avoid areas of high human traffic or intense wildlife. The dog does not need these distractions yet.
On the first day, you will need two tracking stakes (wooden dowels with a cloth flag attached), a leather glove, and some food that the dog likes in bite-sized pieces. The first two or three training days are dedicated to convincing the dog that there is something on the glove that he wants; not necessarily to get the dog to track. You also need a leash (but not a flexi- lead - they often jerk the dog, who thinks it's a correction).
Start with the handler kneeling beside the dog, holding the harness or collar so that the dog cannot follow the tracklayer. The tracklayer should start about one or two steps in front of the dog and handler, facing them, with the glove and a piece of food. The tracklayer places a piece of food on top of the glove, and shows it to the dog. When the dog shows interest in taking the glove with the food on it, the tracklayer backs up a step or two and places the glove/food on the ground in front of him, in plain sight of the dog. The dog is allowed to immediately get the food on the glove, and should be praised for doing so. After doing this a few times, most dogs get excited about this new way to get treats.
This process is called "glove work," and is designed to teach the dog that finding the glove is something he wants to do. If another reward other than food, such as a toy or even the glove itself is more interesting to the dog than the food, then use that. The key at this early stage is to motivate the dog to find the glove, with whatever he associates with it. Food normally works best for most hounds.
Once you have practiced the glove work a few times, and the dog has responded by finding the glove (probably by sight, not scent), the first short track can be laid. The tracklayer starts by standing one or two steps in front of the dog/handler, facing away from them, with glove and food in hand, and places a tracking stake in the ground next to him. The tracklayer should then turn around, with a piece of food on top of the glove, and show the dog the glove and food, just as with the glove work. (It may be necessary to let the dog smell the food on the glove, to get his attention).
Once the dog displays interest in the glove, the tracklayer should turn around and walk about five steps away from the dog/handler, placing another tracking stake in the ground. He then turns around, faces the dog/handler, and waves the glove/food in the air, getting the dog's attention, and verbally encourages the dog to come get it. The handler restrains the dog from getting it until the tracklayer lays it on the ground, quickly returns to the starting stake, and walks behind the dog/handler. It this is done correctly, the dog will then run to the glove and find the food (on lead, with the handler following at whatever speed the dog wants to go). It is important for the tracklayer to be behind the dog and handler, and not moving, when the dog is allowed to find the glove. This is to minimize the distractions of any movement, and to encourage the dog to find the glove, not the tracklayer.
A track that is laid as described here is called a "double-laid" track. This means the tracklayer walks out to the second flag and back again, walking the same track twice. Double-laid tracks will be used for at least several training sessions, until the dog begins to use his nose to find the glove. Once the dog has learned to track by scenting the ground instead of looking for the glove only by sight, "single-laid" tracks will be used.
Once the dog is able to find the glove at five steps, being rewarded with food and praise each time, it is time to increase the length of the track. The second track should be about 10 steps long, and the third, about 15 steps. During the first few days, don't expect the dog to use his nose, although he might choose to do so anyway. If the dog has difficulty at a particular length of track, back up to the length at which he was last successful, or shorter. Then, stop after a positive success for the day. The first day's training session should last no more than about 15 minutes, especially for young dogs with short attention spans.
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