Tracking is one of my favorite activities to do with my dogs since I was introduced to it in October. Its actually way easier than I thought it would be. Before I actually tried it first hand I had read that you have to train them from puppy hood by moving their food a little bit further away each time they eat so they learn to smell it out. Made sense at the time so I tried that with Scout and got a kick watching her tear through the house looking for her dinner. I never got to the part where you are supposed strap hot dogs to your feet and walk a line and then have them smell the food in the footprints which somehow leads to a correlation of following foot prints and food reward.
Check this. We had the opportunity for some tracking instruction when we trained up in Canada. Its a simple as, “Ok Case, walk 50 yards, turn around, call her to you, and go hide in the bushes. We will come find you.” So I paced off the 50 yards, turned around, called her to me, and hid in the bushes. That dog was on top of me faster than I expected. She was straining against the long line, pulling Joshua along behind her. “Ok Case, make sure you praise her up good. That’s it.” I didn’t know it at the time but this is called the “lost handler drill.”
Ha! Awesome right? So now we constantly increase the distance of the track when we get the opportunity to train. I would train all the time if I could but unfortunately, tracking is a two person venture and sometimes its hard to convince my awesome wife that hiding in the tick-infested woods of Florida is actually an enjoyable time. She’s a great sport though because she knows how much I enjoy watching the dogs work.
Scout has realized that while she does enjoy finding Ash or me, she really loves smashing the decoy at the end of a track. Being the decoy suited up in the bite suit at the end of the track is a unique experience. I had the privilege of being the decoy for a couple dogs that were pros at tracking. Its an eerie feeling just waiting for the smallest hint the dogs are getting close. I found myself worrying they were going to flank me and bite me when I wasn’t expecting it. Luckily, that hasn’t happened yet but as they say, there’s only two type of people in dog training, those that have been bit, and those that haven’t YET.
Required equipment for tracking is pretty simple and easy to obtain. All you need is a long line (30 ft), a flat collar, and someone to go hide. The hard part is finding a nice area in which to do it.
Watching a dog track is amazing. Definitely one of my favorites and I look forward to it every chance I get.