dog sniff

Tracking Training for Dogs and How to Get Involved

If your dog is ready to sniff out a challenge, tracking training is perfect for giving his nose a workout.

A dog’s nose is significantly more powerful than a human's. Although all dogs have a strong sniffer, there are breeds that have a particularly strong sense of smell, and are often used in work that involves tracking by scent. Some popular tracking dog breeds include Beagles, Bloodhounds, German Shepherds, and German Shorthaired Pointers. But even if you don’t have one of these breeds, tracking training helps keep your dog’s nose and mind busy.

Tracking Training for Puppies

For the first three months puppies are the most impressionable, so you’ll want to make the most of this time with early socialization and training. This is also the time to lay the foundation for tracking and scent training. For the best results, turn training exercises into a game. Hide and seek is an ideal game to start off tracking training. Make it easy at first, hiding a treat or toy in plain sight, then progressively make it a bit harder, hiding the items in different places. Don’t forget to always praise for a job well done.
puppy sniff istockphoto/Bigandt_Photography

Advanced Tracking and Scent Training

After the initial training is over, and your puppy gets older, it’s time for real tracking work. Don’t worry—you don’t need any special training and all your puppy needs is his nose! There are a variety of different methods you can try for tracking and scent training—try them all and see which one your puppy responds to best. Start off by laying tracks of cut up food for your dog to follow. Once your dog picks up on the practice, it’s time to make the tracks longer and more complex.

Here is an easy to-do list to follow to start with scent and tracking training:

  1. Choose an item for your puppy to find. You’ll need a second identical item that will be used for scent. A great item to use is a sock because it can be filled with food.
  2. Place a flag at the starting point of your track.
  3. Take a step forward and drop a tiny treat by your foot.
  4. Keep moving forward, taking small steps to ensure a strong scent trail, dropping tiny treats with each step.
  5. Walk about 10 to 15 feet in a straight line, placing two flags along the way.
  6. Place another flag at the end of the track along with the treat-filled sock–place it about a foot away from the last flag.
  7. Move away from the track by jumping as far as you can off to the side. (You don’t want to confuse your puppy by walking in a straight line off the track).
  8. Return to your dog and use the second sock to give him the scent—once he has it, let him start following the track.
The above basic training sequence will help teach your puppy how to track a scent. Some dogs will pick up on the exercise more quickly than others, so just pay attention to how well your puppy is doing and increase the difficulty as needed.

Amy Tokic

Amy Tokic is the Editor of, the flagship site to over 70 different pet communities, which offers pet parents a one-stop-info-shop for all things dog and cat related. Amy's been with PetGuide since the beginning, guided by the wisdom of her Shih Tzu mix and furry roommate, Oscar. Together, this pet power couple has their paw on the pulse of the pet industry, sniffing out trends, advice, news, tasty treat recipes and other tail-wagging stories.
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