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Dogs are happiest when they get to do what they were bred for. Basset Hounds are scent hounds, dogs that were bred to hunt by scent, over long distances and varying terrain. They are not fast, they are in it for the long haul, to tenaciously follow a scent even when the scent is old and compromised and the terrain is difficult to follow. Making a game of scenting so your Basset has a great outlet for his scenting abilities will build his confidence, stimulate him mentally and allow you to bond with your dog. When these basic needs are met, your dog will be easier to train for obedience and to develop desirable behaviors. Teaching your Basset to work with his nose can be fun for you and your dog, and great exercise for both of you too!
Your low-to-the-ground Basset Hound can follow a scent trail for hours with his nose to the ground, without straining his neck the way a taller dog might, making him ideally suited to following ground scent trails. You can allow your Basset to locate trails and follow scents to find the objects that made the trail or allow your dog to discover hidden scent objects. Your biggest challenge with your Basset will be keeping him from being distracted by other scents, as his powerful nose can be powerfully distracted. Limiting distractions during training and making scenting into a game with rewards for your foodie hound will help keep him on task. Your Basset can follow a pre-set trail or locate and follow a natural trail to its end and locate an object or game. Either way, his mind, senses, and body will get a workout, which will be great for his well-being, making him one happy dog.
Basset Hounds work for food. While many scent hounds and other hunting dogs may be motivated by toys, food is probably the most reliable way to train and reinforce your Basset. Try to work in controlled environments like indoors or in enclosed areas at first so you can direct your dog and control distractions. If your dog has good obedience commands and good recall prior to training scenting, you will have better luck directing your dog and keeping him on task. You may want to use game or commercially purchased scents to lay out scent trails, although smelly food can also be used. Be patient and happy scenting!
The Food Trail Method
Start with few distractions
Start indoors where there are less distractions. Ask your dog to stay or have an assistant hold him.
Create a food trail
Drop pieces of food in a trail with a large cache of of food at the end of the trail. Keep initial trails simple and in a relatively straight line in the same room.
Add verbal command
Command your Basset Hound to “find it” and release him to follow the food trail.
Allow food to reward your dog
Let your dog follow the trail and get the food. When he reaches the end of the scent trail, praise him and allow him to have final treat.
Make trails more complicated, don't let your dog see you create the trails, and eventually move the trails outside where there are more distractions.
The Shell Game Method
Put a treat in your hand
Put a small piece of food in one hand and have the other hand empty.
Present to your dog
Make a fist to close over the food, and hold both fists in front of your Basset Hound.
Add verbal command
Say “find it” or “which hand”.
Reward correct choice
Allow your dog to investigate hands, when he paws at or nudges the hand with the treat in it, provide the treat and praise.
Try again for incorrect choice
If your dog picks the wrong hand, open your hand and show him it is empty, then show him the treat but do not provide it. Close your hands and try again.
The Road Show Method
Provide nose time
Allow your Basset to get used to exploring scent and following discovered trails outside. Make sure he is in good shape to follow trails.
Create a trail
Create a game scent trail outside with a drag covered with commercial scent or an animal hide. Put the scented object at the end of the trail, you can hang the object from a tree or hide it in a log or behind a rock.
Find the trail
Take your Basset on a leash and harness near the beginning of the trail and let him investigate until he discovers the trail.
Follow the trail
When your dog shows an interest in the scent, get excited and encourage your Basset Hound to follow the trail.
Let your dog scent
Follow the trail with your dog. Let your Basset Hound set the pace and direction. Resist directing him along the trail, you can provide some guidance and encouragement but try to let your dog use his nose to follow the trail.
By Laurie Haggart
Published: 03/21/2018, edited: 01/08/2021