Training the Air Scenting Search Dog

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Training the Air Scenting Search Dog

by Michael Russell

The best way to train an air scent dog is to start, once the puppy runaways are trained, with subjects that are hidden quite close. For the first time that you do this first "blind search" you will want to place the subject on a good windy day in a location that you know of for sure. Bring your dog into the downwind of the subject and make sure that you have planned it so that the dog definitely will scent the subject. Give your dog the signal to search. If you have a bell collar or a vest that you use, be sure to equip your dog with what you will want him to wear, so that he always knows when he wears his "uniform" that he is to hunt for a human. Run in with the dog when he makes the find and give a ton of praise and happy kisses and hugs.

Those first few times that a dog is going to search for someone that they have NOT seen run away are always exciting for the handler to watch, it is so thrilling to see that all the training you have done so far is beginning to pay off.

Gradually set these searches up for a longer distance and in different and more difficult wind conditions. The necessity of not going too fast cannot be stressed enough. It is highly important that for the first few searches the dog is always able to find and that the dog always ends without frustration. If you are on the ball, you will always know where your subject is located and be able to "walk" your dog into the scent if they do get confused or lose the scent. After a couple of weeks of setting up practices which are one acre or less, every three days, then it is time to stretch out the length of the searches and the difficulty.

An area of five acres should be the next goal and you should find five acre areas with different terrain, some brushy, some grassy, some heavy timber and so on. Furthermore you should also use differeent subjects as much as possible and subjects that your dog has not been previously introduced to. Always try to allow the dog plenty of time to work out the scent cones and the wind patterns on his own, but you must also begin to teach him about gridding an area with you and so it is important to begin using directional signals after about three weeks of doing these short searches

Next you will want to stretch out the search areas to ten acres. Every so often, back up and do a short and sweet one acre search. From this time forward, you will concentrate on different areas, different subjects, different wind conditions and practice, practice, practice. do not let it become boring to the dog, no matter what. Back off if he evidences any sign of boredom.

The most important thing to remember about teaching your dog to air scent or for that matter to trail is that the very act of finding a human should be his most overwhelming desire. That means that you should so train him that he will always want to do that more than anything else. The best way to get that kind of focus is to never let anything else be as rewarding to him!

For many dogs the best reward is plenty of praise. For other dogs that are highly prey oriented or have a strong toy drive, then playing with a very very special toy that they never get to play with at any other time is the best reward. For some dogs the best reward is a special treat, although most handlers do not feel that a food reward is sufficient to motivate the dog this highly.

The act of finding a human being should always be the most fun thing the dog will ever do. If you set these practices up religiously to follow that philosophy, you will never have a dog that is burnt out and you will always have a dog that will search for a human before he will run after a deer or any other thing.

Michael Russell Your Independent guide to Dog Training

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