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Friday, July 17, 2009

Question about training a dachshund puppy for blood tracking

We got this e-mail from David from Louisiana:

I recently got a female puppy. She is ten weeks of age. I placed a line for her with a deer liver about 60 yards long. She did good at the start with her nose to the ground. The further she goes her nose tends to come off the ground and she will drift off the trail. I put a turn at the end of the trail and she had trouble with this. How long of lines should I put her on? How many a week?Should I start using deer blood alone? Should I put a deer hide at the end of the line? What should I do if she loses interest on the line? I would appreciate any info.

John's answer:

Hi Dave,

Keep in mind that ten weeks is a young age for puppies to start showing a strong interest in tracking. Some will display strong tracking motivation even before ten weeks, but we have had some good ones who didn't show us much before 13 or 14 weeks. You have to be patient and keep in mind that even when a puppy is not performing well, that little brain is being stimulated as it grows. You will see the benefits later.

Before working a liver drag it is important to make sure that the pup knows just how good that liver tastes. Before you drag the liver to the end and wait a half hour, tease the pup with the liver chunk by swinging it on the cord. Let the pup have a short chew to motivate her when she tracks a little later and gets a chance to eat a little bit.

At ten weeks I would begin working her on a 20' leash of light plastic clothes line. You can guide her slightly and keep her focused by stopping her when she veers off the line. Let her find her own way back to the scent line if possible.

When she gets to the 90 degree turn, stop her gently if she just keeps on going straight ahead. If she does not come back on her own and search for the line, pick her up and set her down on the line again before the turn. Then you can give her some hints with some gentle pulls on the leash.

As for length of the line, start her on 40 or 50 yards and then give her longer lines when she seems capable of handling them. We have 12 week old puppies working 200 yard lines, but every pup has its own time table.

I think that two lines a week is about right, but you have to play the weather. Don't ask her to track any distance when it is 90 degrees outside.

I have found that a liver drag is easier for a pup than a deer blood line with the drops spaced every 12-18 inches. If you have enough deer liver, stick with that until she is doing a good job over 100 yards.

The limiting factor in puppy work is the immature brain, not the nose. Your pup has more than enough nose to smell a liver drag that is two hours old. Start with lines that are at least a half hour old and cover the liver at the end with an inverted feed bowl to keep the flies off. On older lines you should go and replace the liver at the end of the line just before you track.

I would start putting a square foot piece of thawed-out deerskin at the end of the line. Encourage her to grab and shake it.

When she seems to lose interest in tracking, it is fine to give her a vacation of a week or ten days. However, don't let her quit in the middle of a training line. Get her through it to the end and praise her "find", even if you have to give her a lot of help. In general it is better to work puppies before you feed them. Then hunger will be a stronger motivation as they track to the goodies.

There is no single cookbook recipe good for training all puppies. Sometimes you have to play things by ear.

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