When training or working your dog in tracking or trailing, many handler’s will reach a point where they need to keep the dog motivated and excited to hit the trail. Here are a few pointers to keep your dog keen on the trail.
1- Make sure each search has a payoff.
Always make sure that the dog wins at the end. Whether on a training run or an actual mission, always stick to one principle: quit only on a success. Make sure that at the end of the day, he has a solid find.
2 – Make sure that every find is an achievement.
The dog’s motivation is in large part a reflection of the handler’s attitude. Make sure that your dog understands that you are delighted in his excellent work with an energy-charged voice, hugs, pats, and an energetic game of tug or fetch. Keep the praise equal to the find. Make sure your praise is supporting, not interfering. While on a real search, never forget to acknowledge your dog’s work.
3 – Demonstrate that you are relying on him.
Always trust the signals he gives you. If the dog wants you to do something, make sure you do it. This will help strengthen your communication with your dog as well as you will learn to trust your dog and his abilities.
4 – Keep your expectations reasonable.
Recognize the fact that not all searches will end with a find. Acknowledge that your dog is giving you his best effort and always be patient with your dog. Remember that he is a dog and can only do what he can do.
Make sure to keep him comfortable. Be aware of the conditions where you are searching and minimize the stress that it may put on your dog as best as you can. Always make sure to keep him hydrated, and give him a trail snack to keep his energy up.
5 – Make sure your dog enjoys the search.
Keep a positive attitude whenever you are out on the trail. No matter what circumstances you find yourself in, remember that your attitude feeds down to the dog. Make it fun for him and he will always enjoy the search.
For more in-depth tips to keep your dog motivated, as well as training your dog to track, pick up a copy of Lue Button’s popular book Practical Scent Dog Training.