I have heard about the "pup box", where you saturate a 3x3 foot area with footsteps
and hot dogs to teach early scenting behaviors. I am training my dog for Schutzhund competition,
with the FH title one of my goals. Is this a good method to use to introduce her to tracking?
First I would like to recommend Scent And The Scenting Dog by Bill Syrotuk. I used
this book as my olfactory bible in operating the Seattle Police K9 Academy. In recent
years I have checked with the scientific community via fellow K9 trainer Steve White and
find Syrotuk's information as valid today as the day it was written.
Secondly, I will in respond to the inquiry about puppy tracking using the baited scent
pad at the start of the track. This method is very similar to methods used by Gottfried
Dildei who has produced a video tape on tracking.
This is a good method to produce a schutzhund tracker
because it orients the pup toward the ground disturbance scent available at the footfalls.
The only deficit is the sole orientation on the footfalls tends to minimize scent
discrimination and trailing skills. This is good for schutzhund until you get to the
FH level. But, scent discrimination skill can be taught later, after the dog is
proficient at tracking. Trailing skills are a negative if you are focusing solely
The most common fault in using the method is continuing to use the food as an
incentive to track for too long. It is best to reduce the amount of food on the track
as soon as the pup shows that he gets the idea he is following a trail. In the
beginning a piece of food should be in every foot fall. As soon as the pup shows
he is using his nose to get from one piece of food to the next start placing the
food every other footfall, then every third footfall, etc.
Always at the end of the track throw a party for the dog. Use whatever turns him on -- food,
ball play, wrestling. Remember it's his party. The first tracks are either across the wind
or downwind. As soon as the pup is readily following the track and is comfortable you can
add a turn. This is a crucial moment. When the pup gets to the corner, don't let him/her
progress past the turn. If the turn is made into the wind the first few times it will
help the dog get the idea.
The second most common fault is allowing the pup forward
progress when he is not directly on the track. Gently restrain the dog from moving off
the track and give praise when the nose is down on the track. If the nose is high or the
pup is trying to go in a wrong direction withhold your praise and encourage the dog to
I do this initial tracking work on a very short lead held at about mid rib cage so that
I can reach out in front of the pup to assist him with hand motion and readily stroke
him when appropriate. Usually in about one month I have the dog working several hundred
yard tracks with two or three articles.
If starting a pup at 10 to 16 week age, the progress is slower and I don't require
any action from the pup on articles. I just make the articles points of interest along
the way. Later I associate them with food under them and start to require a down
before the food can be taken.
Copyright 2000 NorthWest K9; all rights reserved.
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