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Categories: Police or S&R Tracking

Q. I took my dog 12 hours from where I live for a competition. He refused to track. What did I do wrong? Can I fix it?
Dear Mr. Frawley,

You have been helping me previously so I dare to ask for your time again:

My now 4 year old GSD, Harry, is very high prey orientated. My previous question was how to slow him down on a sport track. I followed your advise and those problems are gone. Thank you.

I have never used food on the track, Harry is not fond of food, he?ll leave his bowl for his ball only too willingly. He has done so many tracks, I train him since he was a pup. I did IPO, Int. Tracking Trials and Tracker dog successfully with him. He has always been such a keen tracker, "such", nose down, tail up (!) and off he went happily and reliably. He has done over night tracks and works hard in any condition like heavy grounds, strong coastal winds, high temperatures, you name it.

Some weeks ago we traveled 12 hours from East London at the South African East Coast (sea level) to Johannesburg (1500m) to participate in the local police dog trials (part of the working trials here). The show started on Sunday so we went up on Thursday to give happy Harry time to settle. All went well until the tracks went off. Out of the blue Harry decided not to track at all. We have taken a video of the event and there is no evidence of a fault from my side. I usually let the dog take scent, tell him such and then shut my mouth and just follow my dog. What I have seen makes me think of lack of motivation and concentration. The question is: Why?

Harry is fit like a rooster, not over worked or used to any force on the track. I do not have any clue about this. Nor do my tracking fellows who use food on their tracks....

-Are we hitting the wall?

-How can we get over it?

Thank you in advance,


A. This is a handler mistake.

You have not trained with a RESERVE.

This means you need to set the dog up. No food the day before the track or the day of the track.

Lay a 30 yard track with food at the end – wind coming from your back - a tin of cat food. The dog needs to have tracked many times for cat food.

Then leave a can of cat food near the starting flag – close enough that the dog can smell it when you take him out.

When you approach the track – take the second can and allow the dog to know you have it. Put it in the car.

Then take the dog back to the start of the track and try and start.

He will not track – guaranteed.

Now you train for the reserve. In a very DEEP FIRM PISSED voice your give the track command and use level 10 force to jerks all the way down this track - many many jerks. The dog will scream – he will crawl and run and maybe piss himself. When he gets to the end he gets the can of cat food, He may not eat it. Take him back to the car – put him away for the day.

This dog will NEVER forget this day. Not for the rest of his life. You will only have to do it once in his life.

You have now trained the dog for a RESERVE – if he ever goes out to an event and acts like he did at the competition – you can lower your voice and sound pissed and I guarantee the dog will track.

Maybe once a year you go out and test the RESEVE VOICE at the beginning of a training track. You will see that he remembers.
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