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Getting Your Golden Retriever into Tracking/Scent Training

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Though many people consider the Golden Retriever to be the ultimate family pet, these dogs were actually developed for retrieving waterfowl. The Golden Retriever breed is also highly talented as a tracking breed with proper training. If you are looking for a fun way to build a stronger bond with your dog, or if you are looking for something to give him a little extra exercise, consider tracking or scent training for your Golden Retriever.

What is Tracking or Scent Training?

Tracking or scent training is exactly what it sounds like – it involves teaching your Golden Retriever to follow a scent trail. A dog’s nose is up to 10,000 times stronger than the human nose, depending on the breed, which makes your dog’s nose one of his strongest tools. Because your Golden Retriever already has the tools he needs to follow a scent trail, tracking or scent training really just involves teaching your dog how to utilize those tools effectively in a competition setting. When it comes to tracking and scent training, there are different skills which come into play. You can teach your Golden Retriever to follow a track or a trail on the ground, to follow a scent on the air, or to identify objects that have been scented. Each of these skills takes time and training to develop, but the Golden Retriever is a very smart and trainable breed which is why they make such good tracking dogs.

Tips for Getting Started with Tracking/Scent Training

There are a number of different ways to go about getting your Golden Retriever started with tracking and scent training. To teach your dog to follow a scent trail on the ground, use the following training sequence:

  1. Cut up a couple of hot dogs into 1-inch pieces and place a few of them on the ground in your backyard.
  2. Use your foot to step on the pieces, mashing them into the grass.
  3. With the hotdog scent on your shoe, walk in a straight line away from your Golden Retriever.
  4. Drop a piece of hotdog every couple of feet, moving a total of 20 feet away.
  5. At the end of the trail, drop one of your dog’s favorite toys so he has something to work toward.
  6. Place a piece of hotdog on top of the toy then go back to where your dog is.
  7. Encourage your Golden Retriever to sniff the area where the trail starts and praise him when he stars to follow it.
  8. Follow your dog as he follows the scent trail but don’t lead him – let him follow the trail with his nose until he reaches the end.

By using this type of training sequence you can quickly teach your Golden Retriever to follow a scent trail using food rewards. As your dog gets used to tracking you can start making the trail a little more difficult by adding corners, going over obstacles, and dropping objects along the way.

Training your Golden Retriever for tracking can be a fun and exciting challenge for the both of you. Not only will your dog be learning a new skill, but the two of you will be spending time together developing your bond or friendship. The better your dog gets at tracking, the more difficult you can make the trail – your dog may even get good enough to compete in tracking competitions!

Photo credit: Franco Vannini/Flickr