How to Train Your Bloodhound Dog to Search and Rescue

Hard
5-8 Months
Work

Introduction

Bloodhounds have been used for centuries to track scents due to their incredibly sensitive noses and their high motivation to follow a scent. Although all dogs have great noses, Bloodhounds truly are most prodigious sniffers, even amongst dogs. Their sense of smell is so reliable that it can even be used as testimony in a court of law! Bloodhounds have been used in the past and still are used to track fugitives, which gives them a negative reputation for being aggressive that is undeserved. Although a Bloodhound will aggressively follow a scent trail accurately for miles to find a person, they are not necessarily aggressive once they locate the person. Besides tracking fugitives, Bloodhounds are ideally suited to search and rescue as they are able to track lost and missing people effectively based on scent, allowing emergency personnel to reach people in need of assistance and provide much-needed help.  Because they are adept at tracking in a variety of terrain and can distinguish scent trails in difficult conditions, Bloodhounds are effective trackers even in the roughest terrain and wilderness areas.

Defining Tasks

Motivating your Bloodhound to follow a scent trail is rarely a problem, as these dogs love to follow scent trails and use their nose. The problem is getting your Bloodhound to focus on the required scent trail, and not be distracted by competing scents. To accomplish this, a dog may need to have some maturity and training to focus on the required scent. Never use punishment to train a Bloodhound to follow a scent trail. Bloodhounds, although they have a reputation for being stubborn, are remarkably sensitive, and punishment can easily put them off their game, resulting in a dog that is confused, anxious and reluctant to work. If your Bloodhound makes a mistake in training, following the wrong scent trail or going off the directed trail, ignoring them is the most effective correction, while rewarding and reinforcing correct attempts. 

For search and rescue work, you will want to be able to provide your Bloodhound with a sample scent and direct him to pick up that scent trail and follow it while not becoming distracted by competing scents. Bloodhounds used for search and rescue will need to be in good physical shape and familiar with distracting environments, wilderness terrain, and the noise and various people associated with a search and rescue operation.

Getting Started

Bloodhounds have loose wrinkly skin, and having a harness and collar that fit appropriately is necessary to keep your dog under control and comfortable. You will need a harness while training so that your dog can comfortably work with his head down on the ground, following the scent with his nose, and a long lead about 6 feet in length to allow some freedom of movement so your dog can adjust to the trail as necessary. Treats and toys are often used to reinforce scenting success. An assistant will be required for some training.

The Match a Scent Method

Effective
0 Votes
Step
1
Create scent trail
Lay down a scent trail. Drag an item covered in a person's scent a short distance in a straight line and hide the scented item.
Step
2
Introduce scent
Bring your dog to the beginning of the scent trail with a harness and hook on a long tracking line. Provide an identically scented item for your dog to smell. These can be stored in a plastic bag to help retain sample scent. Let your dog get a good nose full.
Step
3
Follow trail
Command your dog to “find it”. Let him move out on the line. As your dog follows the scent trail, encourage him and talk excitedly.
Step
4
Reward locating
When your dog finds the item, give him a reward, a high value treat, or play with a toy.
Step
5
Practice
Repeat, gradually making the trail more complex and longer. Reward your dog for finding the matched scent, ignore false attempts.
Recommend training method?

The Sample Search Method

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Step
1
Get sample scent
Have a friend provide their scent on an item of clothing they have worn, or by rubbing a cotton swab behind their ears.
Step
2
Hide
Have the friend go a short distance away and move out of sight. Keep the initial “hiding” spot simple, behind a tree or large object down a trail.
Step
3
Allow dog to track
Provide the object for your Bloodhound to sniff, then allow your dog to move around on the harness and long leash and locate the scent trail. Encourage your dog toward the trail on first attempts if necessary. When your dog locates the trail, get excited with him; talk in an excited voice and follow the trail with him. If your Bloodhound gets distracted, reintroduce the sample scent by providing it again.
Step
4
Reward find
When your dog finds the person, praise him and provide him a favorite toy or treats.
Step
5
Make more complex
Gradually make scent trails more complex with longer distances and more complicated hiding places. You may want to have a two-way radio to communicate with your assistant so you can help direct your dog during training if required. Eventually allow your dog to work off leash when he is ready and accurately following scent trails.
Recommend training method?

The Find the Owner Method

Effective
0 Votes
Step
1
Walk out from dog
Have another handler hold your Bloodhound while you walk out in front of your dog. Shake an object that is covered in your scent such as a hat or clothing article and call your bloodhound--get him excited.
Step
2
Drop scent article
Drop the article with your scent and run about 20 yards away and lie down. Keep calling your dog's name.
Step
3
Investigate item and owner
Have your handler approach the article of clothing to investigate and sniff. Then allow the Bloodhound to continue on following the scent to locate you and investigate. Praise your dog for finding you.
Step
4
Increase distance
Repeat, making the trail longer until it is 100 yards from where you drop the article with your scent to where your dog locates you.
Step
5
Increase difficulty
Repeat but do not allow the dog to see you run and do not call the dog's name. Allow the dog to locate the item nearby, get the scent and then follow the trail to locate you.
Recommend training method?

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Lucy
Bloodhound
2 Years
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Lucy
Bloodhound
2 Years

Off leash trailing tracking, having her come back to me esp when I need to correct her on the trail if she’s off trail and when she finds the person I’ve been having her do touch but how to get her to bay or speak and stay with the victim??

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainier
78 Dog owners recommended

Hello Sheila, It sounds like you are making good progress so far. I suggest recruiting several assistants who can help you, one at a time, over the next couple of months. Friends or fellow Search and Rescue volunteers that your dog does not know will be best. First, teach Lucy to bay on cue by teaching her the "Howl" command. You can teach her how to do this by following one of the methods from the article that I have linked below. Experiment with the different methods and use the one that gets her to bay rather than bark if you prefer baying. Practice the command until she will reliably bay when you tell her to "Howl!". The command word can be something other than "Howl" but make sure that you always use the exact same word. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-german-shepherd-to-howl Once she knows the command, have your friend hide and have Lucy search for her. When she finds your friend have your friend command her to "Howl" and reward her when she does so. Practice this until Lucy begins to howl on her own when she finds your friend if your friend waits a few seconds before giving her the command. When she begins to do this, then have your friend wait five to ten seconds every time before telling her to "Howl". Do this to see if Lucy will do it on her own and to give Lucy time to think about what she ought to do. If she does it on her own, have your friend reward her. If she does not do it, then have your friend remind her by telling her to "Howl". When she howls after being told to, have your friend reward her with a single treat, but if she does it on her own, have your friend reward her with five treats, one after the other. Practice this until Lucy will howl every time she finds your friend without being told to. To practice having Lucy stay with the person, once Lucy will howl when she finds the person, then have your friend mimic different positions that people might be in when Lucy finds them. Have your friend reward Lucy every five seconds that she stays with her and performs her duties. When she will stay with the person for one minute, then increase the amount of time between rewards to ten seconds. Keep increasing the amount of time between rewards and extending the amount of time that you expect Lucy to stay with the person, as she improves. Do this gradually as she improves. When you arrive where Lucy and your friend are, reward Lucy also. Eventually Lucy should be able to go longer and longer between treat rewards without leaving your friend's side, then when you arrive you will give her just one treat for waiting the entire time. Practice all of this with multiple friends, one at a time. You can either practice with the same person until she masters it with that person, and then move onto a new person, or practice with someone different every time. There are pros and cons to doing it both ways, but both ways should work well as long as you practice with multiple people so that she will do it with more than just one friend. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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