Conditioning your dog for tracking

by André Brun

 Your dogs physical condition can play a major role on the long and difficult tracking jobs


There is a variety of different training aspects when it comes to achieving an effective blood tracking dog: The actual training on blood tracks (training on different surfaces, angles, frequent blood stops, the dogs experiences of a circling wounded animal crossing its own track, crossings of healthy animals etc.), the understanding and reading of the dog when tracking, communication with the dog through the line etc.  But another important aspect of achieving an effective dog is physical conditioning. Why is this of any importance when tracking, you may think? Your dog is just advancing relative slowly through the terrain and can’t get exhausted of that? Yes, it can. And that’s partly the reason why the dog should be physical fit, but the most important for us is that the relatively unconditioned dog doesn’t do a very good job. I’ll point out the reason why the dogs physical condition can play a major role on the long and difficult tracking jobs. It’s all about how the dog uses its nose during intensive tracking.

 Some blood tracking situations are quite easy, because the shot and wounded animal isn’t really wounded in the strict term, but only needs a couple of hundred meters - often less - of fast running through the woods to empty itself and lay down and die. Even after a perfect hit. But often we don’t know for sure if the hit was perfect or not, so in every situation where the animal run out of sight we automatically get the specialized blood tracking dog and put him on the track after an hour or two of waiting. 

 So far, so good. But when a track goes further and further into the woods, over a small stream, downhill through some thick bushes, along the edge of a large field and…You stop for a moment, catch your breath and suddenly realize that this is going to take a whole lot of effort. Well, then it’s not only important for you to be fit, but also your dog.  Let me explain why. All dogs get psychical exhausted after an extended period of intensive tracking, but the way the dog uses its nose also exhaust him in another way: When the dog is onto a track he inhale a small amount of air into the nose (not all the way to the lungs), analyze the scents and quickly exhale. He does this 10-20 times in average - for every time he takes a deep breath and inhale the air down into the lunges. Maybe for an hour. Or two. Or a lot more.

It’s easy to understand why this technique requires a physically very good condition for the dog to track effective over an extended period of time. He really needs all of the lunge capacity he has. On the other hand, an unfit dog is not only getting physically exhausted - he also looses more and more of his effective breathing technique because he has to decrease the frequency of nose inhalations for every time he has to inhale air down into the lunges.

As you already may have figured out, tracking speed is closely related to the dogs tracking technique: To track accurate is to track slow - the dog decide the direction, you decide the speed. Maybe the dog has to follow in the foot steps of a fast running animal that after some hundred meters even stopped to bleed. Not seldom a track from the day before.  Then it’s easy to understand that to be able to register the fading weak scent trail, the dog has to use his breathing technique for all what it is worth. And a fast tracking dog will undoubtedly miss some of the scent information hidden on the ground because of the nose inhalation frequency to dog speed ratio.  Think about it: A fast tracking dog with poor physical capacity compared to a slow tracking dog that is very well physical trained. Who will do the best job? Obviously the well conditioned companion. 


To contact webmaster/ TrackingDogs MessageBoard, .

Ulv & André



Back.gif (766 bytes)
<<<< TrackingDogs Message Board


Related Links