Category Archives: Tracking Dogs

Teaching Dogs Tracking in Northern Virginia

Dog Tracking Classes Northern Virginia

Do you want your dog to do tracking in Northern Virginia? We can help!

While a hunting dog may be motivating factor in breed choices and dog acquisition, there are some natural dog abilities that should be taken into consideration before training begins.  As far as scent training is concerned, dogs are already far ahead of you.  You are  simply reinforcing something they already know.

Get your dog ready for tracking  with commands and games geared towards what you will be doing out in the real terrain.  The commands need to be simple and clear.  Trying to teach too many different commands will get confusing.  Think through what actions you would like your dog to complete and narrow down the amount of commands.  Common specifics include differentiating between things like the dogs own items such as toys, and human or animal scents.

Games start at home with fun.  Dogs love attention from their favorite humans.  Simply playing repetitive games with your dog will help with scent training.  You can start with a basic game using your closed fists to hold different items.  Teach your dog the name associated with the scents and help him learn to smell each of your hands to find the item. Take care to choose an alert method that will work in all situations and stick with it.  Some common indicators are pawing, scratching, or nudging with nose.  Make sure that your dog knows when he has done a good job by “marking” this behavior verbally (“yes!”).  Kind words and loving attention go a long way.

After your dog understands he will be looking for and identifying items, a larger scale search can commence.  This will involve hiding items throughout the house.  Follow the dog around the house and reward him when he finds the items.  Treats, toys and playtime, and praise can all be used as rewards. Once this exercise is understood well by your dog, you can try it without the lights on to strengthen use of smell.  Be sure to keep using your chosen word to command your dog to search for and find the targets.

Your dog can also be taught to look for you or other family members.  Be sure to stay quiet in your hiding place to encourage use of scent instead of hearing.  Another family member may need to hold the dog while your find your destination out of site.  Be patient and wait for the dog to find you, let another person guide or give encouragement.  Your dog can also be taught to look for your items when lost.  Start by “accidentally” dropping items on a walk or leaving them around the house.  Make sure to use body language showing your dog that you are looking for something.  He will eventually catch on to help you.  When you near the item, let the dog find it himself and use his indicator signal.

You really don’t have to teach your dog to use scent to search for things, you are basically just speicifiying what you want him to search for and how to tell you when it is found.  Games and exercises are great for getting started with this, as well as for initiating a good bond with the owner.  Both will help when it is time to but the skills to use.

If you want to take your dog’s detection or tracking to the next level, contact us at Off Leash K9 Training!  We offer nose work, detection, diabetic alert dog training, and tracking! or or 888-413-0896

Nick White
Off Leash K9 Training

Dog Tracking Courses in Virginia

Tracking Dogs in Virginia

Are you interested in a dog tracking course in Virginia? We can help!

A dog with tracking ability can be a great asset to hunters, police,  service dogs, or just for fun!  All dogs use their sense of smell to help them throughout the day.  A simple walk can be a great experience for a dog to learn about the world around them.  They know where other dogs have been even when humans don’t have a clue.  This natural aspect of canine behavior is a great starting point for training your dog for many different things.

Dogs had to find food in the wild before they were ever domesticated.   While many breeds have been influenced by domestic preferences, most still have good natural instincts.  This can be seen by any observant dog owner.  They sniff everything, turn in circles before bed, and protect their families and food sources.  Owners of dogs specifically used for tracking are just working with a dogs natural abilities and fine tuning them to focus on certain activities.

If you desire to track with you canine friend, it may be a good idea to consider this from the moment you pick out your furry buddy.  While all dogs have strong scent detection ability, some breeds are a little better set up for hunting and tracking.  Their natural mentality and physical make-up can make each breed good at different things.  Snout shape and size contribute to ease of tracking.  Dogs with shorter snouts and squished faces may get overheated easily and not be able to stay outside as long.  There is a lot of physical activity involved in tracking activities, as well.  Some dogs have more naturally high energy levels than others.  Prey instincts also have been known to be more prevalent in certain breeds.  Do your research on breeds before deciding on a companion.

As a dog ages, they may be less efficient with tracking as well.  It is also understood that male dogs may have better scent detection abilities than females.  A well trained dog that is well bonded with its owner will do the best job, however.  Dogs usually aim to please and enjoy praise and rewards.   A kind and appreciative owner will add to the dog’s ability and confidence.  Make sure to practice with games and exercises before going out in the field.

Police dogs are usually a specific breed and have professional trainers to prepare dogs for finding things like humans or missing persons.  This is a situation where the trainers are used to working with a specific breed and get to know them very well.  The dog also have to form a trusting relationship with the officer that will be working with it on a regular basis.  This relationship should not be underestimated when considering performance of tracking dogs.

Whatever your choice of dog, be sure to hire a trainer such as Off Leash K9 Training or research the many tried and true methods for focusing your dog’s tracking skills.  Focus on the relationship with your dog from day one.  Take your dog places with you, go for walks, and play with him.  A well trained and bonded dog will offer years of enjoyment and friendship on or off of the hunting field.

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-Nick White
Off Leash K9 Training