Introducing the young pup to his first tracking experiences should be a positive, rewarding experience. Retired Master K9 Trainer Tim Tieken shares the funamentals for success.

Puppy Tracking: Part 1 by Tim Tieken

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 on schutzhund.

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 the track.

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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