Tracking, or outdoor scent games, is a bit different from the indoors stuff. Indoors your dog learns air scent games. He raises his head, takes a good sniff, and can locate an object. Tracking, also known as trailing, is following the path of a person. It can also mean following animal tracks.
In tracking, the dog sniffs the ground instead of air. Basset Hounds are able to follow a trail for miles, tracking being one of the most useful skills a dog can have. Police use scent hounds to track down fleeing criminals. Search and rescue teams use dog trailing abilities to find lost people.
Of course, this kind of activity takes special training and most of us don’t have that well-trained dog. But that doesn’t stop us from having some fun tracks. Before you start make sure your puppy is at least 3 months old. There’s no need to rush, you’ll keep playing tracking games well into his senior years. You have all the time in the world.
What do you need to play tracking games?
Treats and a small field are no-brainers. You need treats to lure him into playing, and you need someplace to play without lots of small rocks around that could hurt his nose. Try to find a place without any high grass; dogs don’t have the instinct to close their eyes if they encounter something pointy.
Besides, you don’t want to take the chance so just find a plain field. It doesn’t even have to be long. Aside from food and fields, you’re going to need a harness. A normal leash collar is not a good idea. In tracking the dog will lead you, if he pulls on the leash he will start to choke on the collar.
Getting a harness is not complicated; find one with soft materials such as cotton. Make sure the harness fits him well and is secure on his chest. It’s beneficial to get an adjustable harness. Also, you might want to have a longer leash than normal.
Finally, you need a glove with lots of treats at the supposed end of the trail. Also, keep a mind out for what kind of treats you bring to the table. At first, you won’t have any problems because you’ll only lay a short track for him to follow.
However, as you make the tracks lengthier you’ll find that other creatures start taking an interest in your little game. Birds, rodents, and bugs are all fun breakers. One thing that seems to keep other animals away yet is still attractive to dogs, is dehydrated lamb lung pieces.
Laying the track
Away from traffic, pick an area with small grass and have your dog held by another person, ready in his harness. If you don’t have a friend with you, you can just tie him securely.
Place one foot on the ground, and a treat right at the tip of your toe. Take a small step with your other foot and place another treat at that foot’s tip. After a mighty 10 baby steps have the big glove with lots of treats in it. Be generous.
Get back to your dog, grab the leash and give the command. “Track”, “Trail” and “Find” work nicely. If he doesn’t get started point the first treat to him. Once he’s rolling go along with him until he reaches the glove. There praise him for the jackpot, he’s a hero.
Now you can start spacing the area he has to go. The longer version is to make every other treat 2 baby steps apart instead of one. Eventually, you’ll have him going through corners and whatnot.
Incorporate Scent Games in Your Exercise Routine
Basset Hounds are not built for speed. Their legs are not exactly the perfect design of a speed machine. When you take a look at a Basset Hound the first thing you notice is that big nose. It gives him that distinctive look you just can’t ignore.
It also gives him an incredibly sensible and talented sense of smell. Dogs have a naturally gifted nose for some reason. It’s estimated that a dog’s nose is at least 1000 times more sensitive than a human’s. If you had that great sense of smell, wouldn’t you totally rely on it?
Since Basset Hounds were originally bred as scent hounds (hunting using smell) you can expect they’re even better than the average dog. A dog’s nose size doesn’t count for much in terms of smelling powers, but there’s another reason for that long snout.
When you’re hunting using smell you’re basically tracking the scent of whatever it is you want to catch. If you’re doing that you’re going to be with your face in the dirt, so to speak. One problem with flat-faced dogs is that they can hurt their eyes from grass and so on. This is where the long, broad snout comes into play.
Scent games are fun
Scent games are primarily going to work on three important levels. First of all, you’re going to be providing a mental workout to your dog, and I don’t need to tell you how important that is.
Second of all, you’re spending time with him in an interesting way, and that decreases boredom. Thirdly you’re getting a stronger relationship because of the special things you do together.
There are lots of scent games you can incorporate into play. One of the easiest is the shell game. If you find that it’s too difficult for your dog starts with holding the treat in your hand and asking which hand has it.
Play the shell game
Get some paper cups and a bunch of treats. Make a big presentation of how you’re putting the treat under a paper cup. At this point, it’s important for your Basset Hound to see everything you’re doing. He doesn’t know he should rely on his smell yet.
Making sure he sees everything, you place a treat under one of the cups. Now ask him to find it. He will probably timidly go to the right cup. Let him knock it over, kick it with the paw, push it with his nose and whatever else he wants to do to it.
When he figures out the correct one give him the treat and praise him for doing such a good job. If he doesn’t get it, lift the cup with the treat under it, show it to him and tell him to find it. Don’t cover it up again. Just let him have it.
Work your way to where he can consistently pick the right cup from his first sniff. Now you can add some spins. Start with only one rotation, keep it simple. In time your dog will become so good at this game you’ll be thinking of joining the circus.
Teach Your Dog to Find Your Keys
Basset Hounds have successfully used their sense of smell to provide food for his people for hundreds of years. Many people experience the frustration of having a dog that has to follow every little scent they pick up when walking their Basset Hounds. If they have such a good nose, why not put it to work?
Since you’re on the road to having your very own Basset Hound special ops scent hound operative it makes sense to give him as many scent powers as possible. One very fun game you can play is teaching him to find his favorite toy.
You’re going to be able to turn this game to other objects that interest you more than your dog, but for starters, you need something that catches his attention naturally. So pick up his favorite toy or treat and get ready.
How to play “Where is it?”
To play this game you’re only going to need a piece of cloth and his favorite toy, at least at first. Simply take the toy and put it under the clothing, all the while letting your dog see it.
When it’s in position ask him “where is it”, the name of the game is what you’re going to do. When he digs around with his nose and finds it let him play with his toy and give him a treat.
After you repeat this for a couple of times he’ll catch on to what the game is about. It’s time to make the treat or toy a little harder to find. Put it somewhere in the room, hidden, but where it’s still accessible. For example, stuffing it in a drawer is highly inappropriate.
Now you’re well on your way to working up to putting the toy anywhere in the room when he isn’t looking and he will still find it when you say “Where is it?” Once he’s mastered how to find his favorite item you can teach him to distinguish different objects by giving them names.
Teach your dog to find your keys
If he already has the ability to find an item why not make it a useful item for you? Teaching him to find your keys goes through the same process you would go with any object. So you can use the same training program for any item you want him to know about.
Start with the keys on the floor, in front of the dog. Show them to your Basset Hound and as soon as he sniffs around to see what you have there given him a treat and say this phrase “good keys”. He knows “good” means good, and now he will start associating “keys” with good.
From here on it’s simply a matter of putting the keys farther and farther, rewarding him every time he checks them out with treats and by saying “good keys”.
Probably the biggest key in this type of training, and perhaps the reason why many people don’t succeed is that they are not generous in their rewards. You have to remember, toys and the people he loves are already interesting to your dog.
Your keys aren’t all that fun. That’s why you need to up the stakes and reward him big time because otherwise, he’ll lose interest. Soon enough he’ll be showing you where the keys are and you’ll be off in no time. You’ll never have to go through that frustrating moment again.
You can train him to find different objects for you, however, try not to teach him to grab them and give them to you, unless they are big enough so he doesn’t accidentally swallow them. In any case, have fun!
Walking with a Loose Leash is Easy
The old cliché question “are you walking your dog or is your dog walking you” tells you that you already have a problem. He is on a mission and you’re just following around. Don’t be the dope on a rope. It’s time to do something about it.
Basset Hounds are even peskier in this regard. Their nose will pull them everywhere and you’ll feel like you have no control over where he goes at all. In reality, walking on a loose leash is really easy. You might train your dog in as little as 5 minutes.
Some obedient dogs get it in as little as 30 seconds. But you’re not trying to speed-run through this, so don’t worry if it takes you a few days. A series of simple steps will make walking your dog so much easier you won’t believe what you used to go through.
How to walk your dog on a loose leash
Use a light 6 foot leash and a comfortable snap collar. You’re there; you’re standing with your dog ready to roll. Give the go command, anything from “Let’s go” to “Carpet” (remember, these are just labels, making them funny is going to evoke giggles from your friends), and start walking.
When he pulls turn the other way and say “let’s go” again just as the leash tightens. Don’t worry about getting the timing right, you’ll keep repeating this so you’ll get it right sooner or later.
He’ll turn around after you and start walking in your direction. If he runs ahead and starts pulling turn the other way and say “Let’s go” again (now imagine doing this with “carpet”). Now the second he stops pulling, in other words, starts walking on a loose leash, give him an easy treat and tell him how good he is.
There it is: you’ve cracked the secret. The point is he will never ever get where he wants if he tries to pull you. On the other hand, keeping his eye on you is very rewarding.
An alternative way to start walking on a loose leash
Not that the first method won’t work, but you might feel you can’t get the timing right or whatever. No matter what problem you think you have, here’s an alternative way to do this with your Basset Hound.
Say “Let’s go” or whatever you chose for your go command and start walking. The instant he pulls, stop. He will likely keep pushing forward for a little while, to which you reply by simply standing still. When he stops pulling; start again. The instant he pulls you again you stop.
It’s very easy, when he pulls you stop. He pulls, you don’t go. He will quickly figure out that you’re in charge and if he wants to go on his walk he has to stick to you. And there you have it. Just keep stopping when he pulls and you’ll have him sticking by your side even if you have a 30-foot leash.
Thinking About Jogging or Hiking with your Dog?
Jogging and hiking are different activities, require different types of dogs but are both demanding on your Basset Hound. The main thing to remember is not to force anything. If your dog doesn’t like the idea, is struggling, or is uncomfortable in any way discontinue.
Be aware that your dog may not be suited for jogging. It depends on the individual. It’s a good idea to ask your vet if you can jog or hike with your Basset Hound. If he gives you the ok it doesn’t mean your dog will be completely comfortable with it. Still keep an eye out and judge for yourself.
With that out of the way let’s talk about jogging and hiking with your Basset Hound. First of all, they are different activities physically. Jogging is a high-energy activity and requires a fit dog that likes to run around. Basset Hounds are generally not so jog-oriented. Hiking involves rough terrain but you can take it a lot slower so you might like that more.
I wouldn’t count on your Basset Hound being the perfect companion for jogging but you can give it a shot anyway. First of all, don’t even think about it until he’s one year old. Second of all even if your dog is an athlete you still need to condition him before taking on a full-fledged jog.
At first, take a short distance and a slow pace. Work your way up in speed and length gradually. If he’s lagging behind it’s too much for him and you need to back it down a bit. Just be careful about it, keep an eye on him, and make sure he’s comfortable throughout the whole experience. It might turn out he’s not your ideal partner and that’s completely fine.
The funny thing is that even if he’s not suited for jogging you can still take him with you. All you need is to grab a stroller for him and he’ll still bring you your Pumas.
When walking on a loose leash is easy you can consider hiking. You’ll find so many things you would otherwise miss you’ll find it enough reason alone to go hiking. If you feel your Basset Hound is lacking in leash manners go back to walking on a loose leash and work on that.
When you’re going hiking you’re going to have to keep your dog on a leash. Even if your dog is a champion at obedience you still shouldn’t trust him off the leash.
If you’re planning on going for long hikes you need to get the dog in condition for the trip. You might want to grab some dog boots for the rough terrain. You’ll also need plenty of water.
Finally, you need to do some research and find places that allow dogs. You’ll be surprised how many prohibit dogs. There are still lots of places where you can have fun; you just need to look a little harder than usual.