Getting Started Right

I prefer to start puppies (or dogs with no training, regardless of their age) with a method referred to as "food-tease-reward".  However, if you are training a breed other than a bloodhound and want to use a toy or play as a reward, simply substitute your choice of reward for the food treat.

This method begins by repeating the procedures and commands that will be used for the entire working life of the dog.  In addition, this method provides the following advantages:

  • The dog is worked by the handler from the beginning, and does not necessitate switching from a temporary handler after the initial training as is necessary when the handler lays puppy trails for his own dog.

  • The dog learns that he and the handler work together, as a team, to find other people.

  • The dog learns from the beginning to associate the starting command with the scent on the scent article, and the scent trail the dog is to follow.

  • The dog learns from the beginning that the harness is the “switch” that turns his trailing mode on and off, and signals when he is to “play the game” and when the “game” is over.

  • The dog learns from the beginning that trailing is a fun game, and that he will be rewarded with a food treat and lots of attention and praise when he successfully locates his quarry.

To start training with this method, go to an area relatively free of distractions as possible.  The handler (you) places the dog in harness and attaches the trailing lead to the harness "D" ring, and your runner approaches the puppy and gives it a smell, or even a small sample of the food treat that is going to be used as a reward for the dog. The runner then begins backing off from the dog, all the while calling the puppy by name, using a high pitched, excited voice, and waving the item that is to be used for a scent article. The handler restrains the puppy, and believe me, he will need to be restrained, as he will want to go with the funny acting person with the treats! When the runner is about 10 or 12 feet away from the puppy, he drops the scent article, and continues running away from the puppy...still calling his name, flailing his arms, and acting very excited. The runner goes out in a straight line about 100 feet for the beginning trails, and then ducks partially out of sight--behind a tree or some other obstruction.

The handler then brings the puppy up to the scent article, and with the dog over the scent article, gives the chosen starting command one time, using the correct tonal inflection. It is not necessary for the dog to stop and smell the scent article, nor will it be necessary for the handler to pick up the article and hold it up to the dog's nose. The puppy will go running very enthusiastically to the runner where he is loved, petted, and given some of the food treat. Do not skimp on the praise at this point.

In the beginning stages of training, I like to run four of these trails in succession, two sets per day.  The next step would involve trails with one 90-degree turn.  Even though the puppy is still watching the runner leave, his short attention span prevents him from remembering where the runner went, and he is forced to rely on his nose to locate the runner. When the puppy thoroughly and completely understands the association of the scent article/starting command/finding the runner/getting rewarded, then you can advance to short, simple trails where the dog does not see the runner leave.  When a puppy reaches this stage, I like to work on one or two trails per day, four or five days per week.

From this point, you can advance to trails of increasing difficulty, in both length and age, keeping in mind that:

  • Training must always be fun for the dog.

  • Training must always end on a happy, successful note.

  •  Repetition is the key to successful training—use the exact same procedure every time.

  • The difficulty of trails should be advanced only after competency is developed at one stage and the dog is working consistently.

  • You put the dog in harness only when you are ready to start him on a trail, and you remove the harness immediately upon completition of the trail

  • .The starting command is given one time only—at the start of the trail and when the dog is over the desired scent article.

The training of a mantrailing bloodhound is a long, never-ending process.  This procedure will help you get started using proven, tested training techniques.  This guide is offered as assistance in the training of the hound in his beginning stages.  Good luck and happy trails.

Copyright © 1998 by Jack R. Shuler. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise), without the prior written permission of the copyright owner. 

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