How to Scent Train a Basset Hound

Medium
2-3 Weeks
Behavior

Introduction

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!

Defining Tasks

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.

Getting Started

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

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Step
1
Start with few distractions
Start indoors where there are less distractions. Ask your dog to stay or have an assistant hold him.
Step
2
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.
Step
3
Add verbal command
Command your Basset Hound to “find it” and release him to follow the food trail.
Step
4
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.
Step
5
Add complexity
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.
Recommend training method?

The Shell Game Method

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Step
1
Put a treat in your hand
Put a small piece of food in one hand and have the other hand empty.
Step
2
Present to your dog
Make a fist to close over the food, and hold both fists in front of your Basset Hound.
Step
3
Add verbal command
Say “find it” or “which hand”.
Step
4
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.
Step
5
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.
Recommend training method?

The Road Show Method

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0 Votes
Step
1
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.
Step
2
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.
Step
3
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.
Step
4
Follow the trail
When your dog shows an interest in the scent, get excited and encourage your Basset Hound to follow the trail.
Step
5
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.
Recommend training method?

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers and Success Stories

Question
Luke
AnimalBreed object
3 Years
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Luke
AnimalBreed object
3 Years

How can I gain my dog’s attention even when getting rid of any distractions? He seems to have the attention span of a goldfish, although he does love to work for food. Thanks in advance

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
672 Dog owners recommended

Hello Jordyn, First, begin training somewhere super boring when teaching initial verbal cues like "Find It". Go somewhere like your bathroom or room, where there are no other people, animals, toys, or sources of food. After pup has learned the command, then gradually practice in harder and harder locations - only moving onto a new location when pup is doing well at the current one. This takes practice and patience. Second, keep training sessions short. Many dogs actually get better at training the more they learn - they learn how to learn and focus, but at first keep the sessions to about 10 minutes, but have several throughout the day for quicker progress. Notice when pup is really struggling to focus even more than when the session first began. When you can't seem to get them to focus any longer whether it's been 10 minutes or not, get one more good response out of them so you can end it on a good note, then end that session for now. Third, be motivating. Keep your energy and enthusiasm high when you want pup to feel excited. If you need pup to be calmer, keep your energy calm and confident. Help pup engage with the training by having the type of attitude you are trying to get pup to have - i.e. excited and motivated or calm and focused. Find what motivates pup and get creative. If pup loves small pieces of carrots instead of liver treats or vice versa - use what pup finds motivating so long as it's healthy and safe. If pup likes toys better than food, use appropriate toys as a reward for succeeding instead of food where you can. Fourth, reward small successes and break training down into smaller steps. When teaching a command reward attempts and getting closer to the goal, even if pup hasn't done the full behavior yet. As pup improves more, continue to praise as pup is getting close but gradually require a bit more correct behavior before you give the treat - until pup can do the entire behavior and get the treat at the end of doing that behavior. For example, if pup is supposed to be finding something, praise and reward pup for a few steps in the right direction and sniffing the ground a bit at first, then show them where to go if they need a hint. As they improve, wait until they get closer to the goal before you reward, praising quietly for staying on the trail as they look, then giving them a hint for the last bit of the trail if needed. Finally, wait until they get all the way to what they were searching for before giving the treat. This may mean rewarding pup for getting just one foot further for a while - until all those feet are put together into the final search eventually. You want pup to stay motivated to keep searching and learning by helping them succeed along the way while they are figuring it out. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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