Tracking requires your dog to use his nose to pick up a scent trail and follow the scent trail to locate the scent’s source. Your dog’s nose is incredibly perceptive; his sense of smell is 2,000 times more powerful than yours and it is one of his main sensory tools. Using this sensory tool to track a scent trail is usually fun for your dog, and can be a useful skill or tool. Dogs are frequently used to track in hunting, to identify contraband, and to provide assistance in search and rescue operations. Even if your dog is not going to be a “professional” tracker, teaching him to track is a fun game. Some dog breeds such as hounds and other sporting dogs are particularly adept when given a scenting task, and teaching your dog to track provides them with a purpose and an activity that is beneficial to them mentally and physically.
Starting tracking work when a dog is young is the norm, however, any dog, even an older dog, can be taught to track and excel at it. With an older dog, you may need to start out with encouraging them and teaching them how to use their nose to locate food objects as a game. Make sure that it is a fun activity-- reward your dog for success, but never punish them for not successfully picking up a scent and locating an object.
Your dog should know basic obedience commands such as ‘stay’ and ‘come’ before teaching more complex tracking behaviors. If working outdoors in an open area, you will want to have a long leash that allows your dog to roam around and look for scent, and to keep your dog safe. If you choose to work off-leash you may want to use a GPS collar in case your dog becomes separated from you. Ensure they have an ID tag as well. You will need treats to reward your dog for successfully tracking. You can use smelly food items such as hot dogs or a toy or cloth covered in animal scent to create scent trails.