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Dinnertime Fun—Tracking and Nose Work

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Let's track down dinner

Would you believe that your dog is capable of following a track left by a person and then finding that person at the end of the track—and that you can teach this skill without any extra training in the time it takes to feed him his normal daily meal?

Many dog owners are learning about the sport of tracking. Find out if your dog has what it takes to be the next tracking champion or search-and-rescue hero!

happy dog running

Step by step

The plan is really quite simple. Take a portion of your dog's normal meal in a plastic bag. Then "lay the track"—just walk normally across your yard, placing a piece of food in each step.

Pretty easy, right? Your dog shouldn't have any trouble at all finding all the food you left lying around the yard. When he gets to the end of the track, tell him what a good boy he is, and give him the rest of his meal. He doesn't actually have to find anyone at the end, yet. He just needs to find the food.

Next meal you do the same thing, but don't place the food in every footstep. Leave a few out, one here and one there. The idea is to make your dog work a little harder to find the food, but still succeed really easily.

Next meal you do the same thing, but place food in every second footstep.

Next meal you place food in every third footstep.

Continue in this fashion, adding a few mild changes of direction to the track. Make it easy for your dog; the idea is for him to succeed really easily. This is just the beginning after all. What we're trying to teach is a connection between the scents left on a track and the food. At first it's just a continuous trail of food, but as you start leaving food out, your dog will have to look for clues. The consistent clue is that the food is always where your footsteps have been.


Dogs already know how to track. They are born with an amazing ability to find things using their noses. What we are teaching here is that we want them to follow footsteps. The food reinforces this behavior.

Most dogs love this game; it makes dinnertime so much more fun! Dogs are genetically programmed to work and hunt for their food. It doesn't take long to introduce this fun and enriching game to play.

Who knows? Maybe you have the next tracking champion or search-and-rescue hero right under your nose?

[Editor's note: Reprinted with permission from Positive Petzine.]
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