How to Teach a Dog to Track Scents

Most dogs are very eager to please their owners. With this eagerness to please and a strong sense of smell and reason, dogs can be really remarkable trackers. However, that ability to track, while it may come naturally for some, still requires training and effort.

Learning how to teach a dog to track requires a little bit of effort on your end as well. Whether you’re training a puppy or an old dog, here we’ll break down the steps you need to get started to teach tracking to your dog.

How to Teach a Dog to Track for Beginners

Once you’ve decided to teach your dog how to track, you’ll have to evaluate what skills your dog already has. Basic skills like sit, stay, and come are going to be absolutely crucial. So make sure you brush up on those before you even get started.

Again, tracking is a skill that a dog can start learning very early on or later on in its life. Once a dog has learned this skill, it can be used in professional settings as well, such as narcotic detection services like the ones listed at

You will also probably want to have some supplies on hand. There are different options depending on the path you choose to take. You’ll definitely want to have a leash, some toys, and some favorite treats for training purposes.

Getting Started

It likely makes the most sense to start your training process indoors. This helps to eliminate possible distractions that you might find outdoors. Once you’ve established a good location, you can select a favorite toy to use as the tracking object.

Warm-up with a little game of fetch to get your dog excited and familiar with the toy. This exercise is already very similar to tracking, just on a smaller scale.

Once you’ve done this, you can practice putting the toy farther and farther away to get your dog accustomed to having to search just a little bit before bringing it back. Your dog should eventually start using its sense of smell to search for the toy.

Get Outside (if you can)

Once you’ve practiced the previous steps several times, getting progressively farther and farther away, you can take this exercise outdoors into more of a real-world environment.

Practice having your dog sit and stay on command while you take the toy. As you continue to work this, you can add in verbal cues like search or seek in order to signal what you want your dog to do.

And of course, don’t forget to use plenty of positive reinforcement with treats and positive vocal cues to let your dog know they’re doing the right thing.

Practice Makes Perfect

Learning how to teach a dog to track is not something that will likely happen overnight. This will take lots of practice and consistency in training.

However, with practice and lots of positive reinforcement, you’ll be amazed to find how quickly your dog can pick up this new skill.

Continue exploring the site for more dog training tips!