Equipment

What do you need to start tracking?

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Tracking Harness

You will need a tracking harness & tracking line (10m/30ft) and something you can use as a start pole.
There is a great variety of harnesses available for sale on the internet and you can spend from as little as £20 for a fabric one, and as much as £70 For a bespoke leather harness. It is very much a matter of choice although it is important to remember that as your dog starts to gain confidence with his tracking he might pull quite strongly so it needs to be strong and fit well as he could slip out of his harness.
Suppliers www.yelldog.co.uk   call Paul 07795 060 915

 www.dog-games-shop.co.uk

Tracking Line

Tracking Line

Again there is a great variety of tracking lines available from leather lines, fabric types and rope.

You need to go for a line that doesn’t burn your hands as you feed the line though and for this reason I prefer ‘climbing rope’.

You can often buy climbing rope to the length that you want 30 ft (10m) and it is usually cheaper when you do this.

Try out the different thickness of the climbing rope and see what is the more comfortable in your hands.

Pointed poles

Pointed poles

Available from www.dicksclimbing.com

Any pole will do as the marker for the start of your track, although having a sharpened end will help when the ground becomes hard and dry. Tie a flag to the top so that you can gauge the wind direction as this can change even during your session. You can use ribbon or even tie a plastic bag to the top if you wish.

Food treats and Toys

I introduce the dog to both treats and toys as both have their place in teaching the dog to track.

Small pieces of baked liver

In the very beginning I use visual treats like pieces of sausage or small pieces of cheese to help the dog along the track especially if he is abit reluctant to start going forward on his own.

Food containers

Food containers

When the dog starts to get the idea I quickly change this to small pieces of oven baked liver (thumb size) so that the dog has to use his nose to find the treats.

For the food orientated dog I end the game with a small food pot or canister eg. a pill or vitamin pot and it is even better if you can make a hole in the lid so that the dog can smell the tasty food inside.

ToffeeTipToffee tip – ‘If I am training a ‘Food’ orientated dog I put different food in the pot from that on the track as this can make the treat pot more exciting for the dog.’’

Toys

Ideal tracking toys

Ideal tracking toys

To start I use the dog’s favourite toy although this shouldn’t be too large that the dog can see it especially when you place it further on up the track. Red rubber rings are ideal as these lay flat and the dog isn’t able to see red and therefore he will have to use his nose to find the toy.

A Place to Train

Ideally a grass field that is fairly well grown and not fouled by people and dogs.

Grass pasture fields, without animals grazing, are usually the best but it isn’t always easy to find out who owns the field to ask if you can use it.

A suitable field for tracking

A suitable field for tracking

I find that fields that have a public footpath running across them and have dog friendly styles belong to farmers who generally don’t mind dogs and if I do bump into them and explain that I am training my dog they don’t seem to mind. If on the other hand there are signs saying ‘Keep dogs on lead’ and are very difficult to access with your dog, generally are not the farmers to ask.

National Trust properties are often surrounded by trust land which often include footpaths, common land, disused airfields, behind village halls and some parks are OK but just keep away from areas that are frequently trodden on by dog walkers.

I find that making enquiries down the local pub have often been fruitful but I always explain that I am training the dog to track and it is always on a lead!

How often should you train?

Try to do 3 or 4 short tracks in each session for no more than about 20 mins.

Being a good dog trainer is knowing how and when to finish with the dog wanting to do more. Try to end on a success although don’t accidently extend your session trying to achieve this as sometimes it just doesn’t work out that way.

Never show that you are disappointed or frustrated with what might have happened during the training session as the dog will sense this anxiety and might not want to do tracking any more.

Try to train over a period of 3 days in a row as dog’s learn from repetition and after this have a couple of days break as dogs benefit from latent learning allowing for the training to ‘sink in’.

When not to train

Don’t train during moderate to high windy days when the dog is just starting out. Gusty winds tend to swirl and the scent gets blown all over the place and the dog losses accuracy especially when the grass is fairly short in growth. See ‘Effects of wind’ .

Hedges provide shelter from the wind

Hedges provide shelter from the wind

If you have the fortune of tracking where the grass is above ankle height and longer, windy days aren’t such a problem as when you walk you make a track channel which traps the track scent . Also know your field, if is it protected by hedges creating a micro-climate the effects of the wind may not be quite so serve.

When the dog is more experienced you will need to teach the dog how to cope with windy days.

Tracking in snow

Tracking in snow

Don’t train when it is raining or about to rain or has rained after a particularly dry spell. Rain freshens everything and the dog will find it difficult to decipher between the track scent and other scents.

During the summer allow a couple of days break after it has rained particularly after a prolonged dry spell to allow the scent to settle again.

Frozen ground in most cases is difficult if not impossible to track on, although dogs seem to cope well in frosty conditions and track well in the snow. In fact tracking during frosty weather is a very good time as you can see all the small animal tracks and how your dog investigates them and continue along the track.