How to teach tracking? - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 13 (permalink) Old 05-27-2018, 11:50 AM Thread Starter
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How to teach tracking?

My 6 month old is awesome. Super well behaved, and just great, largely thanks to the help I got from this forum. Now I want her to be able to go and get stuff for me, or to like "pick up a scent" and track something. Lets say I want to find my mom or girlfriend or whatever because they are hiding, I have her sniff something of theirs and she's on the case. Or I have a cat that likes to go outside, I would like my dog to track her down. How do I do these two things? Thank you guys!
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post #2 of 13 (permalink) Old 05-27-2018, 12:44 PM
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post #3 of 13 (permalink) Old 05-27-2018, 02:39 PM
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It depends on the kind of "tracking" you're talking about. From what I'm taking in, you're discussing the dog using air scenting to find something. It's very different from what Schutzhund tracking is like, which is predominantly obedience based. I would recommend looking into things such as Nose Work - I think that would be a good place to start. A dog tracking a cat that went out though... that's going to be pretty hard. You have to have a pretty high level of trust in your dog to do that, and a lot of impressive foundation training behind it. It's not like training a trick, or at least in my personal opinion. Endurance tracking for a specific person or even another animal is more akin to SAR, which is years upon years of training and work, day in and out.
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post #4 of 13 (permalink) Old 05-27-2018, 04:08 PM
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If you just want to play around and make a game of it, you already have a good idea. Get a nice harness that the pup can pull against. Nothing fancy because pups outgrow everything pretty quickly. Clip a 7 to 15 ft leash to the back. Have your friend drop a sock or mitten or something with their smell on it, and then go run and hide a little ways away. Point to the fallen sock and when you pup sniffs it, tell them to go find..or what every command you want. Have your friend make a little Woot noise and when your pup goes to find them, praise them. And your friend can praise them. As your pup figures out the game you can have your friend go hide a little ways away without your pup seeing them hide. Slowly increase difficulty. Be patient when your pup picks up their head if they seem to have lost the scent. Give them time by waiting patiently for them to figure it out.

When your pup is a little older if you two really enjoy it, you can find if there is a man-trailing club nearby. You'll be working with hounds, who excel at this task, but I've seen all kinds of breeds try their hand at this.

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post #5 of 13 (permalink) Old 05-28-2018, 01:01 PM
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I’ll have to respectfully disagree that SCH tracking is obedience motivated. The dog is taught to use ground scent. Call it damaged or disturbed ground as opposed to natural ground. The dog learns that the track is the damaged ground. That’s very simply stated but differentiates from air scenting. The dog’s nose is so sensitive that we really don’t even comprehend what or how the dog knows scent. It doesn’t matter.

We teach the dog to follow a marked scent. The dog learns this and gets rewarded. The SCH/IPO sport adds style and appropriate scoring as a test. That’s the obedience part of it. Once the dog learns that you want him to use his nose this way, the dog will find that it is very easy. A well trained SCH/IPO dog is very hard to get away from. I’ve had my dog track a flooded field in a down pour then swim across a flowing drainage ditch and continue the track on the other side. I even had to swim across it. There were many object he had to indicate on both sides. Indication was by laying down with the object in front of his feet. ( a point deduction for not between his feet were it a trial). Length of tracks were not an object...we often spent a whole day working day old tracks.

Some dogs like hounds do air scenting. A very windy day can get them way off course. I did this as as a bad guy in a police certification test. I “shot” (with a camera) both the officers and the dog after they walked past me and about another 50 feet. There were a lot of cuss words but it was a lesson well learned. Situation awareness. We demonstrated our SCH dogs the same day and scored a perfect capture for both dogs. Neither had run this test previously.

So as noted, you need to decide what type of tracking you want to do. Some dogs are very good at area searching and maybe not patient enough for longer distance tracks. We did this with various objects tossed in an area. The dogs did not know what to search for just something out of place. How do they do this? I can’t tell you. The dog just methodically searches just as you might do a grid search. He finds something that doesn’t match the area. A gun, knife, shoe, glove. All have a different scent picture. The dog indicates this by what every you teach. And of course a very great reward. We worked with a bomb dog and as he was also taught area search he would never miss a foreign object. He silently stopped and stood off some distance looking at the object. Never barking. Waiting for his handler.

You could start by dragging a child’s shirt over some nice untrampled grass in a field. Let the dog sniff the shirt.. please don’t stuff it in his face, as the movies, dogs are a lot smarter than that. Just either hold it and let the dog sniff as he wants, or just leave it on the ground at the start of a short track. Reward heavily for success. The dog will get the idea. It takes time however, not an instant happening in one day.

There are other scenting things like finding your wallet. It’s more complicated and time consuming. AKC has some events like this. You maybe don’t want to compete but go to classes for the instruction.

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post #6 of 13 (permalink) Old 05-28-2018, 03:22 PM
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Bentwings1, I think what Car2ner was referencing about the obedience aspect, is the stylized way of IPO/SCH. Slow, nose glued to the ground, point deduction for not being on top of the track or turn etc. That is the obedience part. Loyalty to odor is definitely needed, and as you have shown with your dogs, applicable and transferable to more of a trailing way which allows the dog to follow the strongest source of odor vs. just on top of footstep and allowed to move at the speed and way (head not glued to the ground) that is most effective for a quick find.

Air scenting for LE I can imagine would be much more dangerous, although trailing is as well if the handler isn't good at reading proximity alerts and changes in behavior of their dog. For SAR, air scent isn't used as much any more, except for HRD. Trailing allows for air scenting, however, the handler has to be extremely careful to mark where the dog left the trail in case the air scent fades. In general, the dog on a trail will usually air scent the last portion of the track to an extent, due to the large scent pool created by the subject hiding. The may still run the trail/track as laid, but with head up and obvious they are in proximity vs. trailing.

It is cool you have had so much fun with your dogs. Trailing, to me, is the most amazing discipline... I love HRD and my boy will test for air scent this fall, but trailing creates such a bond between dog and handler that I think can be much stronger then the other disciplines, by necessity.
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post #7 of 13 (permalink) Old 05-28-2018, 10:24 PM
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You did a better job describing the obedience part of SCH/IPO tracking than I did. That part of it is designed to slow the dog down as they cannot pull on the leash, they work relatively slowly and you have to keep pace and not put any pressure on the line. If the dog loses the track he must keep his nose down to find the track and you can’t encourage or direct him.

You are absolutely right about having fun and bonding with the dogs tracking. They are the experts you only need to show them what you want. Communication ....talking dog talk. Dogs trained with high value rewards are so happy when they fine objects. They always “ smile”
When I would bring out the tracking harness and long line my dog would just go nuts. Sometimes he would just be whimpering in his crate if it was a long drive to a field. Tracking is also very tiring for the dog. It must take extreme concentration to note each step, or to stay dead center on a bike track, or carrying ten pounds of water in his coat when it is pouring rain. My dog would often sleep for hours after a day of tracking. Probably dreaming of thr fun he had showing us nose dumb humans how it is done.

My Aussie probably could have done we’ll tracking had I had a place to work her. She uses ground scent naturally but will also sniff up and down small branches and some times will stand on her back legs to sniff a branch or twig higher up. I carried a shop towel in my pocket and randomly dropped it in the field. The next day as we were walking I pointed close to the ground where I had walked and dropped it. She sniffed around for a while then moved right on the trail stopping at the object and turning to me. I gave a big reward. At home I hide her toys and have her search the house for them. She really likes to play this game.

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post #8 of 13 (permalink) Old 05-28-2018, 11:04 PM
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Yes, my dogs will sleep deeply after a trail then after 4 miles of running and playing. That is why conditioning trailing/tracking dogs is so important. They truly require more focus and stamina then most any discipline I can think of. Staying in odor 100% of the time while moving forward over whatever terrain. Weeding out the 1000's of other conflicting odors that beg them to pay attention to, and still make the find...I'm in awe of what they do...

And yes, I do know the excitement it brings...my dogs bouncoff the walls if they know it is a trailing day.
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post #9 of 13 (permalink) Old 05-29-2018, 04:09 PM Thread Starter
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I have a lot of trust in my puppy with my cat. The cat though... not so much lol. My baby is a scaredy cat of everything. I took her to a park to walk (there's a petting zoo). She was fascinated by the goats, but as soon as the goat looked at her she nearly knocked me over lol. It was a real treat for everybody else too.



I looked into Nose Work and I think that's pretty good for right now. I will try to do the Schutzhound stuff but I'm not sure if I have that level of dedication, even though it looks extremely enticing. Does anybody have any suggestions for nose work? Thank you all!!
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post #10 of 13 (permalink) Old 05-29-2018, 04:54 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by alwaysClimbing View Post

I looked into Nose Work and I think that's pretty good for right now. I will try to do the Schutzhound stuff but I'm not sure if I have that level of dedication, even though it looks extremely enticing. Does anybody have any suggestions for nose work? Thank you all!!
what kind of nose work do you want to do? IPO is lots and lots of practice finding articles on a track that is basically a big zig zag. ManTrailing is looking for a specific person. Then there is scent detection where dogs try to find a substance, starting with boxes that all look the same. Each technique is a bit different.

My dogs started with IPO tracking but we left IPO to do Man Trailing. And my dogs search for objects around the house for fun. Every morning my dogs have to find my coffee mug (hubby hides it on me). I have a Wubah toy that I sometimes hide in the yard for my dogs to find. My big boy is awesome and usually finds in in 30 seconds or less.

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