Tracking Dogs

Step one: The tracking dog is worked in a harness attached to a 20 - 30 foot lead. The handler puts the harness on the dog just as the team (handler and dog) get ready to work. This way the dog associates the harness with the tracking and is more focused to start working. To start training a tracking dog, begin by having a familiar subject drop a scent article and make a scent pad, then walk 10-20 feet, laying food treats in each step. The subject then hides in an easily detected location. The handler shows the scent pad and scent article to the dog, then the handler gives a command such as "find" or "search." The dog follows the scent and the treats to the subject and is given enthusiastic praise and a reward such as more treats or a favorite toy. Continue these short searches using fewer treats each time. Also use different terrain's, such as fields, yards, parks, lightly wooded areas, etc., but with no heavy vegetation or concrete surfaces in this step.

Step two: Continue using the scent article, scent pad and a few treats (every 5-10 steps), but increase the length of the search. These short searches should always be in a straight line. When the dog starts getting the idea of the search, keep him from seeing the victim hide. Add more variety to the locations used, and even use some with heavy vegetation.

Step three: In this step add curves and eventually stop the track treats. As the dog's ability increases, start adding distance and age to the track and continue exposing the dog to a wide variety of terrain's. The use of the scent article is always needed but the scent pad must be phased out as the dog becomes more accomplished.

Step four: When the dog is reliably finding the victim through these steps with no treats and a trail of ten minutes or more, next use a subject unknown to the dog. Add variables to the searches as the dog is able to successfully complete each level.

Step five: Two people are now used: one as the victim and one as a distraction. The subject leaves the scent article and both the subject and the distraction walk away together. At a predetermined distance the distraction breaks off and leaves the search area while the victim continues on. The tracking dog must stay on the subject's track and locate the subject, even though the distraction turned in another direction. The tracking dog team (handler & dog) should be able to consistently work trails up to 24 hours old that are 1-2 miles long in all terrain.

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