What is the most important exercise in trials?

I think tracking. It is probably the one we spend most time training, it holds the lion’s share of marks, and it is probably one of the most satisfying things man can do with his best friend.

I will teach the Golden Wonder to track. ‘All dogs can track, they do it naturally.’ ‘It will be such fun.’ – how naive I was when I started his nosework training.

As he is a greedy puppy with no play drive it is not a difficult choice whether to start him tracking for food or a toy. I find a small pot and tie my hungry puppy to a fence on a thick collar so he does not hurt himself if he lunges, and he already has his tiny puppy harness on ready for the big moment. I place a pole in the ground and make a scent pad by shuffling my feet as though drying them on the doormat, then shuffle off scuffing my feet as I go to release lots of scent from the grass, a few yards on I place his pot of food lid off to start so he can track to it and reward himself when he gets there.

I unclip him from the fence and attach his long lead to his harness and point to the scent pad to draw his attention to it. He had just watched me lay the track, he screamed as I did this and he smelt the moist cooked chicken before I walked off, so this should be easy.

He sniffed the ground and then looked up at me. I ignored him, so he laid down. Not the expected result so I try again, I pick up my rag doll of a puppy and ruffle him about to wake him up a bit (he really is not tired and just a few seconds ago he was screaming at the end of the lead when I walked off with the pot of chicken).

Revitalised, I put him back by the pole and use my hand to indicate the scent pad. As though a light switch has just been flicked on his brain springs to action... and he offers a hand target. – not the desired effect.

I remove my hand and he looks up at me looking for instructions on how to earn the food. Well I guess I have started clicker training him. He is looking for a lever to make me click!

The more I try to encourage him to sniff the ground and find his food the more he looks at me for help. We bumble along a few yards and he falls onto his pot of chicken. He has learnt precisely nothing. Never mind, I think, if we go again he will soon realise his food is at the end and once he gets that idea he will start to use his nose to get from the pole to the pot.

We repeated the process several times. He realised there was no lever to press so deployed himself in his favourite occupation – bird-watching!

This was not going well. He seems unable to remember that a pot of food was placed a few yards ago a few seconds ago. Is he unable to smell? Or does he have no brain?

We repeat the fiasco daily for five days and make absolutely no progress.

Oh well perhaps I will leave this exercise until he is a little more mature. Never mind I console myself he is sooo pretty...

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