Additional Motivation



These include food, double-laid tracks, interspersing short, easy tracks and walks in the field. I discovered the latter technique a few years ago, and have found it to be the most productive method...



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TD Training: Part 4

by Craig Green

Tally-Ho: January/February 1995

This is the fourth and final article in the beginning training series. In previous articles, I've explained my training philosophy, how to start the new tracking dog and how to build each step of a sound, but adaptable, training program. I've concluded that dogs are as different as humans, and each individual needs to be considered as unique. My overall technique of training begins with a set procedure, but is easily and often modified to a particular dog. If you learn nothing else from this series, learn this: NO SINGLE APPROACH WORKS WITH ALL DOGS.

Training tracking dogs isn't rocket science; but neither is it a whimsical dash through the daisies. Keep doing what works, and abandon or change that which doesn't. You know your dog better than anyone else, and no tracking expert can tell you what will work with him. So celebrate your companion's special abilities (which may include marking the start flag), and find ways for both of you to have fun. If it isn't fun, why are you doing it?

Now, let's get busy with your next tracking title.

Additional Motivation

Tracking is all about motivation. If the dog doesn't want to do it, or does it poorly, then it's not much fun for either of you. So what do you with a dog that always seems to "have a headache?"

There are several techniques that can be used to further motivate dogs that don't seem particularly interested in tracking. These include food, double-laid tracks, interspersing short, easy tracks and walks in the field. I discovered the latter technique a few years ago, and have found it to be the most productive method I've ever used. Glen Johnson (author of "Tracking Dog: Theory and Methods") emphasized the use of food on the track and at turns, but I found this not to be necessary for most dogs, and it sometimes creates later problems weaning the dogs off the food. However, if you're having motivation problems, try anything at least once, to see if it works.

Here's my favorite motivation technique:

After the tracking session, take the dog(s) that you're training for a walk in the field, off lead (assuming this is safe in your particular field), and encourage play rather than work. Take some food along, and give the dogs a bite when you call them and they come. Not strict obedience, mind you, but just an occasional goody for paying attention and coming when called. If your dog likes to fetch, take a ball, bumper, or other favorite object to play with. Some dogs just like to play with the glove at the end of a track. If you have one of these, count your blessings (most hounds are NOT natural retrievers).

The point of all this is to: 1) get the dogs used to the field, especially the bad cover, 2) to promote the idea that we get to have fun immediately after tracking, and 3) to get the dog in shape for longer tracks. After a few short walks, work up to a length of AT LEAST a half mile for the walk, which is twice the length of a regulation TD track. My tracking partners and I have done this with Basset Hounds, Rottweilers, a Border Collie and a Pembroke Welsh Corgi, all at once! It's especially productive to let short-legged Basset Hounds try to chase a faster, long-legged dog, which increases excitement and gets them in better shape. They love it!

It's a good idea to train more than one dog at a time, for a variety of reasons--not the least of which is jealousy between the dogs. If one begins to lose interest in tracking, and the other one doesn't, then leave the slacker at home and take the worker to the field. Then, take the slacker next time. He might decide that he now wants to track, if that's the only way he gets to go.

If your dog simply refuses to track, consider stopping the training for a while, especially if he's immature. However, if you think the dog is able to track but just doesn't want to (and nothing else has worked), try withholding his food except when he tracks. Unfortunately, this requires tracking every day, and is extremely difficult to implement (I consider this to be a last resort). Since you're tracking every day, lay only a short (100- 150 yard) track, with perhaps one turn. Feed the dog a single normal day's ration at the end of the track in the field, or immediately afterwards in the car. If he doesn't track, he doesn't eat. Quit as soon as you determine he's not going to track, and take him home, without praise, punishment (verbal or physical) or food. DO NOT get angry or punish the dog for not tracking if you're going to withhold food. This completely destroys what you're trying to do, so you might as well quit tracking for a while if you can't control your temper.

If your dog eats twice a day, feed him only once a day, with double the normal ration. If he doesn't track (or eat) for three days in a row, feed him the next day, and don't track. Then, start over the next day for three more days. You'd be surprised at how this will motivate some dogs, but it takes time and commitment. WARNING: If it is not done consistently, it probably won't work.

Anything you can do to make tracking fun for the dog is worth doing. It's not like obedience where you may be able to force a dog to do what he doesn't want to do.


This series of beginning training articles has presented an all- too-brief explanation of my technique for beginning tracking. I hope these few ideas will help you with your future tracking training.

While it may be frustrating and difficult at times, watching the light bulb go off in your dog's head when he solves a problem, or seeing the sparkle in his eyes when he gets to run in the field after tracking can be a wonderful motivation for you to keep going. I don't know why so many people drop out of tracking; but I can tell you, there's nothing in the dog world (except following a pack at full cry) that can match the feeling you get when your dog finds that glove at the end of a tracking test. In my humble opinion, it is among the best feelings within the dog sports. I hope you experience it often.


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