With any form of tracking whether it be for competition, SAR or police work you will want your dog to indicate items that have been dropped by the person they are tracking. The type of indication your dog gives you really depends on the type of tracking the dog is doing and what comes most easily to the dog. In Police K-9 work you really don’t want the dog picking up the evidence and in competition the rules vary. AKC tracking allows the dog to retrieve the article if that is what the handler wants. There is one main negative to having the dog retrieve the article and that is the dog comes off the track to bring you the article and will have to search to find the track again.
This article will cover how to teach your dog to clearly indicate articles on the track.
Teaching article indication is done as a separate exercise from tracking. We want to teach the dog how to indicate the article (sit, down, retrieve) and to stay with the article until the handler recovers it. It is very helpful if your dog knows the sit, down and stay commands.
You will need to get a bunch of items to use as articles. These can be any items of everyday use. I like articles that can be easily carried in a pocket or small bag while in the tracking field. I have a very large canister that I keep about one hundred articles in; I take what I want for the track from that canister and place them in my pocket or a fanny pack to use on the track. When articles have been used I keep them out of the canister for 24 hours to air out, longer if they got wet which is typical for Oregon.
An example of articles to have in your supply:
Old cell phones
Small toys (army men, marbles, Lego blocks, teething rings etc)
Keys and key rings
Check book covers
Silverware (metal and plastic) for safety please do not use sharp knives!!
Old cassette tapes
Batteries (keep in a separate container and change out often so they don’t leak)
Combs, brushes, toothbrushes
Old pill bottles (I remove labels)
Bottle caps (plastic and metal)
This is just an example of what can go in to the tracking bag. As you see you can include just about anything! I do have a few dog toys in my article collection but I do not like to use them unless I need to motivate the dog.
To begin teaching article indication you will need a buckle collar on the dog, a 6’ lead, a handful of yummy treats (hotdogs, string cheese or some other meaty or tasty treat chopped up in small pieces) and 2 or 3 larger articles from you collection. We will work on the “sit” or “down” indication.
Show an article to the dog and get the dog excited by waving the article in front of the dog. Throw the article a few feet away and command “show me” as you let the dog run to investigate what you threw, you will follow the dog to the article. When the dog sniffs the article to investigate, command him to “sit” or “down”, gently place him in position if needed (DO NOT CORRECT THE DOG). When the dog has obeyed the command show the dog the treat and lure his nose close to the article as you command “show me” and give the dog the treat. Repeat this exercise using each article a couple of times, quit while the dog is very interested and having fun.
If the dog has no interest in the article:
*Throw the article and take the dog to it. Using your treat, lure the dogs’ nose close to the article and reward with the treat.
*Load a few pieces of the treat in a sock or film canister (let the dog watch you do this), wave it in front of his nose then throw it a few feet away. Let the dog run to the article and investigate (dog may try to get the treats out). Command “sit” or “down” and open the article to dispense the treats! This will usually make any dog want to show you an article!
In the beginning you can work on this article game in your living room, yard or garage. Once the dog is giving you the correct response to the article (sit or down) without being commanded it is time to take the game to more distracting environments. If the dog does well in these new environments it is time to set up an article track.
An article track is a straight line track with many articles spaced about 10 to 15 feet apart. You goal is for the dog to follow the track and indicate the articles along the way. You will go to the dog each time he indicates and reward with a bit of treat and a slow petting. After you reward give him his track command and let him move out ahead of you until the next article. Your dog must know how to follow a simple track before you can work these article tracks.
When the dog is consistently working well on the article tracks you may then add articles to all his regular tracks.