Effects of Wind

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 Ground scent, air scent & tracking

Wind direction is important

Wind direction is important

Tracking during really windy weather is very challenging for the dog and it is for this reason that it is something that I don’t introduce to a beginner dog until much later on.

Tracking is about teaching the dog to follow ‘ground’ scent which is the compression scent left by someone walking over the ground. All dogs learn to ‘air’ scent from the moment they are born and use the wind to help them do this but this is something we want to discourage during tracking.

Wind tends to blow more or less from the same direction during the day and can stay like this according to various weather patterns. We hear the weather forecaster talk about ‘Northerly’, ‘Easterly’ and ‘Southerly’ winds but in the UK the wind direction comes predominantly from the West – hence many wet and windy days in the UK.

Although the wind comes from one direction it doesn’t blow in a straight line but swirls like waves. This is clear to see by watching the wind blow a field of crop or long grass and you can clearly see the wave motion. Dogs, by instinct use these waves to pick up a scent they wish to follow and appear to zig-zag in their movement.

Wind direction & tracking

As track trainers we tend to talk about wind direction as being ‘into’ the wind – when the wind is blowing in your face, ‘down’ wind – when the wind is blowing you from behind, and ‘side’ wind – when the wind is blowing you either from the left or right.

All of these different wind directions have a completely different effect on your dog’s performance. Some dogs ‘cut’ corners tracking into the wind, ‘over shoot’ corners when tracking down wind and ‘fringe’ trailing when the dog tracks to one side of the track during a side wind. These are all undesirable tracking traits which can become bad habits.

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Head down – good!

When tracking we want the dog to follow ground scent and in a straight line. You are more likely to achieve this when you lay the track downwind as the wind is blowing the scent away from the dog making it easier for him.

It is best to pick less windy days to train an inexperienced tracking dog rather than confront him or her with the extra challenges of windy conditions early on.

Head up into the wind - not good

Head up into the wind – not good

When we start training a beginner dog to track towards the start pole, we often find a slight reluctance on the dog’s part to go forward on his own. Therefore, contrary to the above, it is better to lay these first early tracks ‘into’ the wind as the smell of the food or his toy will be blowing into his face encouraging him to go forward, thus taking these very important steps all by himself.

However, tracking into the wind is overwhelming for most dogs and it is for this reason that we quickly change our training to ‘down’ wind tracking once the dog has got it. Wind blowing into the dogs face creates a cone of scent which some dogs find difficult to cope with and can cause the dog to lift their head or weave side to side presenting a behaviour known as ‘hunting mode’.