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Basset hounds are known the world over for their keen sense of smell and their ability to follow a scent uninterrupted for miles. Teaching your Basset hound to track will be a fun endeavor since she is already naturally inclined to follow scents. Your biggest challenge will be getting her to follow your commands while tracking, but she'll be a great companion.
Tracking with your Basset hound is a fun activity that will allow you to bond and get both of you outside and active. It's important to find games that exercise her mind as well as her body to keep her from looking for "fun" elsewhere (like getting into the trash). By utilizing her natural tendency to follow scents, you'll keep her entertained and create a new hobby you both can enjoy.
Basset hounds are wonderful companions, but they have gained a reputation for being more difficult to train. This doesn't mean it's impossible. Basset hounds were bred to be independent hunters. They are great at focusing on a scent and following it without distraction. Because of this nature, they can be a little more stubborn than dogs who were bred to work closely with humans. With some attention to detail and understanding, you can train your Basset hound to track safely and obediently.
Luckily, basset hounds can be highly food motivated, which will help with any training endeavor. Before you start training her to track, make sure she comes when called and is trained in other basic skills. It might help to refresh her memory if these skills are a little rusty. Once she's listening well, it's time to start tracking.
To get started with tracking you won't need much more than your backyard and some treats that smell delicious. There are a few more items you'll want to have on hand to help hone her skills. The list includes:
- A leash
- Smelly treats like hot dogs or liver
- A big reward like a bone or chew toy
- A yard or park with little distraction
- Training scent you can find at a hunting store
Your Basset hound loves to follow scents, so encouraging her to track is an activity she'll be excited about. Read through the three methods below and choose the one you think will work for your dog. With enough time and patience, your Basset will be tracking like a pro.
The Hot Dog Method
Get an early start
Whether you're training at a park or your backyard, get an early start when the grass hasn't been disturbed yet.
Have her sit and stay
Ask your dog to sit and stay in one spot. If she isn't great at staying, you can tie her with a leash.
Get your hot dog ready
Break off a piece of hot dog and drop it on the ground. Crush it under your shoes and mash it into the grass.
Go for a walk
Walk a few steps and drop another piece of hot dog. Mash it with your shoes and keep going. Continue walking a few steps and dropping a hot dog bite until you have a trail about 30 feet long.
Let her smell
Release her from the 'sit' or leash and tell her to "find it." Let her sniff around and find the trail. Don't direct her at all, let her figure it out. When she's on the right track say "good girl," but don't distract her.
Repeat with another trail
When she gets to the end of the trail, Set up another one for her to follow. You can do up to four trails per session, but be patient and don't exhaust her with a long session.
Increase the difficulty
Increase the difficulty of the trails. You can make them longer with twists and turns. You can go over and around obstacles. Make it into a fun game.
The Treat Searching Method
Pick one room
Start in your house with one room that has plenty of hiding places for treats.
Create a trail
Create a trail of treats around the room while she waits outside. Hide treats behind chair legs, in corners, and other places she has to sniff out. You can drag the treat across the floor from spot to spot to create a scent trail.
Bring your dog into the room, point her at the first treat and tell her to search. Encourage her when she's on the right track, but don't point her in the right direction. Let her work it out. Practice this game for a few weeks until she has tracking treats down pat.
When you're ready, move outside. Set up a short trail for her to follow in your backyard. Place treats in a line in between rocks and trees. Make sure they are closer together at first. At the end of the trail, leave a big reward like a bone or a chew toy.
Let her loose
Once your trail is set, bring her outside and say "OK, search!" Be patient while she looks for the trail of treats. Once she finds it, tell her "good girl" and watch her go.
Increase the difficulty
As she develops her skills, make the trail more difficult. Spread the treats out farther and make the trail windy with twists and turns. She'll have so much fun tracking down her reward.
The Scent Training Method
Choose a scent
Choose a sent for your dog to track. There are dog-friendly essential oils or you can find training scent at a hunting store.
Familiarize your dog with the scent
First, put a drop of the scent on a ball or a toy and play with your dog. Get her used to it.
Start with a small track
Begin by creating a small and short scent trail. Walk in a relatively straight line, and put down a drop of scent every few feet. At the end of the trail, leave the ball or a prize like a bone. Make sure she can't see the prize right away.
Ask her to search
Bring her outside and ask her to search. You might let her sniff your hands with the scent so she knows what she's looking for. Be patient and let her sniff around until she finds the scent.
Give her praise
When she starts following the trail, give her praise, but don't distract her. The reward will be the prize at the end.
Increase the difficulty
As she catches on, increase the difficulty of the trail. Make the scent fainter and let your trail travel through more difficult terrain. Soon she'll be able to track her prize through almost anything.
By Katie Smith
Published: 02/06/2018, edited: 01/08/2021