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May 23, 2011
Training Tips: Teach Your Dog to Follow a Scent Trail - 1
by Brian Lynn
In the week or so since our last NAHRA test, I’ve been laying scent trails for Kona to follow. “Find it” has been the cue for Kona to use his nose and follow the trail regardless of my location.
He’s been getting better and is working independently; trusting his nose and following it without so much hunting behavior. Here are some more tips that I’ve found useful if you’re laying a scent trail:
Kona almost always falls into the head held high category, although sometimes, especially at the beginning of the trail, keeps his nose close to, but not completely on, the ground.
“A lot of it is the dog’s individual personality and what he finds as the easiest way to capture and stay in the scent cone,” said Hosford. “A lot of it also depends on the moisture on the vegetation and the wind. The more damp the grass, the easier it is for the scent to carry up the stalks and the dog can keep his head up more. The dryer the grass, the more he’ll have to work close to the ground to puzzle it out.”
“You have to have some kind of encouraging word so that the dog recognizes and understands that you recognize his effort. You don’t need to be sucking up but encourage him just enough to stay working at his present pace to accomplish the task,” said Hosford. “As long as you can see him giving an effort to find the scent cone, keep encouraging him. Once he’s found and is following the scent, be quiet.”
Hosford said that you need to keep quiet so that the dog stays focused. If you continue to encourage with the cue word/phrase or praise the dog, it can create conflict in his mind and distract him from working. “The focus comes off the scent and back to the command,” he said. “It’s a sensitive game between encouraging and distracting him to the point that he quits trying.”
Watch the wind
After the dog starts to understand following the trail, incorporate turns that again quarter the wind or move with its direction. “L-shaped” trails are great starting points and you can repeat the “L” so that you create a stepped trail that makes it easier to define if your dog is actually following scent or just running in a general direction. “U-shaped” trails work well, too, but again, watch the wind and how the final resting spot will influence the trail; you don’t want the bird’s scent cone to wash back over the working trail but want it going downwind.
Use the bird