Dog Training: Tracking Objects

Dogs with high chase drive (also known as "prey drive" or "ball drive") can actually be very easy to train. K-9 police dogs are trained not with treats for reinforcement, but with special toys or games because they're so motivated to chase.

My American-bred, European-line German shepherd is no K-9, but she does have an excellent nose, a proclivity for tracking and a high chase drive. For exercise, mental stimulation and to work on her "tracking" skills, I often play fetch while making her hunt for her stick after I throw it.

While I merely use this as a simple exercise or training regimen, this aptitude can be used to train dogs to hone their tracking skills in order to sniff out various objects.

To use this method for training purposes, it's imperative to have a dog who's extremely motivated by chasing/tracking. As you can see, although Zada's tongue is hanging out, she's very intent upon her search for the stick. There have only been a handful of times in her 3 years when she has failed to bring back a stick I've thrown (whether in the woods or tall grass; harder to find than this evenly-mowed area). These times have occurred when she's extremely tired and therefore not as focused.


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