Weimaraners are natural 'trackers'!
What is Tracking?
The purpose of tracking is for the dog to follow human scent trail and find the "missing person”. All dogs that have the ability to smell can track; some are better at it than others.
People have a limited understanding of how scent works, whereas dogs (with their much more sensitive scenting apparatus) understand and work it brilliantly. It is important that it is understood that the best a handler can hope for, is to hone the dog’s natural scenting ability in the desired direction. The dog must use its initiative to achieve in tracking and the handler must remember in tracking the dog is never wrong; it might just need to recheck the direction of the trail until it is sure. The tracking handler’s motto is trust your dog. If there is any doubt you MUST believe that the dog is doing the right thing: - don't forget that you can't track, you don't understand the circumstances the dog is working under.
The basic idea when beginning to track with a dog is to get the dog interested enough in someone to want to follow, and try to encourage the dog to use its nose instead of eye/ears to find the person. The same process can be used to find an object rather than a person, but it's generally easier to get the dog focused on finding a person than an object. Weimaraners are generally 'air scenters' and for 'tracking' they need to put their nose close to the ground. It takes NO time at all to encourage, even an older Weimaraner, to 'put their nose to the ground.'
Have the handler put the dog in harness and attach a training lead approximately five metres in length. Give a favorite toy or favourite treat (reward) to someone the dog knows well. Stand near an obstacle that the dog can't see around or through (like a car or brick wall). Have the track layer make a big fuss of both dog and toy/reward and walk off towards an obstacle they can hide behind (a tree or shed) about 30 metres distant.
Let the dog see the person leave and the general direction they are going in, then move it behind the car. Make a big fuss, "Where is he? Who's got your toy? Where’s he gone?" etc to get the dog’s interest level up.
Leave about a two minute gap after the track layer has left before moving the dog out to find him. Be consistent with the use of a word for the tracking act i.e. find or seek. Remember the word should not sound harsh in anyway. Use this word now and encourage the dog to find the track layer. i.e. "Find. Where is he?” or “Seek him then". The dog should move in roughly the right direction having seen the track layer leave.
Allow the dog to travel a short distance in the right direction on no more than three metres of lead. Don't allow it to run; steady tension on the lead is the best. If the dog’s nose goes down towards ground level, praise and repeat the word in an enthusiastic but non-distracting tone "Find/Seek, good boy". While the dog’s nose is down, or is clearly sniffing/scenting allow forward movement, if the dog is just wandering at random, or trying to run in the direction he saw the person leave, gently restrain him and allow no forward movement.
DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES CORRECT THE DOG. Simply encourage the dog to come back onto the track and only then once the dog has indicated the track and you have praised it will you move forward with the dog. Slowly progress towards the track layer hiding place and regardless of the dog’s performance to get there, PRAISE madly. The track layer should make a big fuss of the dog and play with the toy with the dog. The track layer and toy are the dog’s reward and should be used profusely to encourage the dog to remain enthusiastic next time.
Do only one or two tracks per training session. Don't be surprised if your dog seems to have little idea of what is required for the first few sessions. Like many activities it can take time for the dog to get the idea, repetition is the key.
As the dog improves, increase the distance, don't allow the dog to see the tracklayer leave, and start to use articles on the ground. The articles can be used to help keep the dog’s nose down. Outside of your tracking training, get the dog enthusiastic about picking up socks. Make a game out of it. Then use socks on the track and praise when they are found. Don't fall into the trap of placing them so closely that the dog can see each one and just runs to them. Place them at least 10 metres apart and let the dog scent to them.
Tracking - All Dogs Can Do This
The dog's ability to track is well known. Man has utilised this ability for centuries. Dogs have helped the hunter to find game and food. Dogs hunt for truffles! Dogs have been used by police to hunt criminals and by search and rescue workers to find lost people. In the 1980's in WA many of the SES tracking dogs were Weimaraners!
Gundogs have always been in the forefront as a tracking and search and rescue (SAR) dog, not because they have the best sense of smell, but because of their willingness to work. This working ability is a key factor in why these breeds are used all over the world for services and SAR work.
The dog's tracking ability is extremely acute; we still don't fully understand the dog's capabilities in this area. The dog's olfactory sense is much, much more greatly developed than humans. Dogs naturally track for food. You could call this their hunting instinct. We don't have to teach a dog to track; we use their natural instinct to teach them that we want them to follow a certain track. In Australia, apart from police dogs and the armed services, groups of search and rescue volunteers train dogs to find people.