Training A Dog To Trail

In training a very young puppy whether a bloodhound or any other breed, one can begin as early as the age of eight weeks. Take the puppy for a walk when no one else is about and when its attention is elsewhere, hide his food stuff away, behind a bush or some other object. If the puppy as soon as it discovers your absence runs back to the house, whistle or call to attract his attention. If instead of running and wailing, it puts his head to the ground and smells for you, it will find you soon and is entitled to a food morsel as a reward.

Repeat the performance perhaps every day for the next few weeks. Do not have others with you but later, after the age of four months, an assistant can help you in laying a trail for the puppy.

In beginning to train the dog for trailing, choose a quiet place outdoors, where interruptions are few. Tie the dog. Have an assistant, preferably a stranger, taunt the dog, then run away. He runs out of sight of the dog, marking on the ground with his foot the direction he has taken.

The assistant can rub his shoes with bacon fat, aniseed, or other article of strong odor.

The man must run in the direction of (with) the wind. If he ran against the wind, it would blow the scent toward the dog. It would blow the scent away from the trail and the dog would catch it in the air at an angle from the trail. When the dog works in the direction of the wind, he is aided thus to keep his nose close to the trail.

Bird dogs on game do better however when working against the wind. Their work is to locate rather than to trail.

Take your dog on a long leash to the spot marked by the assistant’s foot. Have the dog smell the spot. Command “find” and let him go on his way. You yourself keep off the trail; if the dog loses the scent, always take him back to the starting point, the spot where the assistant marked the trail with his foot.

Scold the dog when he gets off the trail; praise him as he keeps on it. Lengthen the trail from day to day; change persons frequently. Keep the dog on the leash while trailing. In cases of actual trailing of criminals, he would go too fast for the pursuers and coming upon the criminals, might be killed by them.

After a time, the dog can be let loose on the training trails. The assistant can have on a training suit or can be up a tree. The dog is not to attack when he comes upon the quarry but is to bark and hold the assistant from escaping.

We come now to a basic principle of canine psychology. Success must be the dog’s; and he must always find his man at the end of the trail. In practice he should always be brot to the quarry, for if he trails day after day without finding his goal, he loses interest. I f always he finds his man, he is keen and attentive and feels that he must go on until he does find his man.

In turn, success must not always be demanded of the dog in scenting and trailing. The dog should not be permitted to stay too long in picking up the trail; one or two sniffs are enough and then he should be off. Further, the dog may have a cold or may not be in good health; then he can not do well on the trail.

For laying out a trailing course for training, it is better to use the peg system, that is, pegs of wood rather than articles of cloth and the like. The latter may be blown about by the wind; the dog may tear it; and he may think he is to fetch rather than to trail, that is, bring the cloth back to his master.

On a quarter mile course, pegs scented by the trail-layer by rubbing in his hands, or with small pieces of cloth tacked to them which he has handled, should be placed, preferably in a winding course rather than a straight line, and not at even intervals, but at varying distances from one another.

This system enables the handler of the dog to check up and to know whether his dog actually is on the course. These pegs should be numbered in rotation of placing and thus the dog can be graded by the number he located, whether in proper order, and in what time without covering unnecessary distance.

In England, the Hound Trailing Association and the Association of Bloodhound Breeders hold trailing trials. Because of tricks in mixing the trail mixture, and the variance in the mixture, the trail mixture must be tested by a chemist and be uniform for all trainers and dogs. Usually the trailing mixture consists of aniseed, turpentine and tansy.

The use of dogs for trailing after criminals and escaped prisoners is on the increase. German shepherds (often termed police dogs), dobermans and bloodhounds are used most frequently. We hope that a national trailing association will be organized in America, trials held, and the work of trailing thus brot to the public’s attention.

The author is president of the Bloodhound Club of America, which organization is planning extensive activity in behalf of this ancient breed. Evidence of identity of the criminal based upon the work of bloodhounds is admissible in court but is not to be considered as proof unless there is other evidence to corroborate.