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Leerburg Dog Training Q&A Archive Q&A on Schutzhund Tracking

Q&A on Schutzhund Tracking

Q&A on Schutzhund Tracking

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leerburg dog
A young Leerburg Dog, owned by Robert McLernan, starting a training track.
Home of F.R.S.C. SCH. CLUB host of the 2004 Can. Nationals

I try and answer every question I receive on dog training. I may often come across as a little on the blunt side, (some may call it brash). That is because I consider myself an advocate for dogs and not dog handlers. I am an advocate for common sense dog training and not the latest fad that appears on the horizon. Good dog training is not rocket science. It's common sense.

  1. I live in an area that is overrun with bugs (ants). When I put food on the ground, by the time the track ages and my dog tracks to the food - it’s covered with hundreds of bugs. What can I do?

  2. My dog will only bite with the front of its mouth. Are there other ways to make a dog bite with a fuller grip?

  3. Training the 90 degree corner in sport tracking.

  4. My pup does not have a lot of food drive for tracking. What can I do?

  5. My 4 year old dog seems to have good prey drive. I would like to train it to track. Should I get involved with local obedience clubs to help me?

  6. My 14 month old GSD does not seem to have enough drive to complete a complicated track. Do you have any ideas for me?


I live in an area that is overrun with bugs (ants). When I put food on the ground, by the time the track ages and my dog tracks to the food - it’s covered with hundreds of bugs. What can I do?


This is a common problem, especially in desert or dry areas. A friend of mine (Cindy Rhodes) showed me an excellent idea that solves the problem. She goes out and buys these plastic travel containers that you put a bar of soap in when you travel. Buy a bag load of soap holders and put your food in them. If you are careful about covering them with grass or dirt the dog can not see them until he is on top of them. A slick idea.

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Hi Mr. Frawley,

I know I have sent this to you already and I understand that you are probably very busy. I apologize for being so persistent and this probably sounds like such a stupid question, however I would appreciate any advice or reference to articles on your web page that could shed some light regarding this issue. As I previously mentioned it's regarding a two and a half year old GSD bitch training towards IPO 1. We are having problems with her bite. She keeps biting on her front teeth. Now I don't know whether this is a habit or as a result of genetics, weak nerves etc. We are now working her on a sack, prey drive only. She seems to have a low threshold for defense and I don't know whether this adds to the problem? Once she takes a bite she seldom carries, slips the object to her front teeth and basically looses interest once the prey goes dead. She does it so quickly irrespective whether she is worked on a tie-out or not. Should she counter she basically opens her mouth and closes it again resulting in the same if not worse bite. The "training supervisor" feels that the dog should be put into serious defense in order to bite beeper. But should the dog be a bit nervy and defensive as it is, how will this affect the dog?

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Thanking You
Q. S.


The bottom line is that grip is a genetic issue. We are not going to change genes through training. We can help with some changes but this is an artificial situation.

The dog needs to understand that the only safe place is to grip the sleeve. This is done through pressure (if the dog releases the grip it is immediately stressed by the helper).

It does not take very long for the dog to realize this. It all comes down to timing. The dog must figure out that if it releases the grip, it is immediately stressed by the helper (the amount of stress is determined by the experience of the helper – I cannot tell or demonstrate this to you this in an email.)

Once the dog figures this out we can worry about the depth of the grip. When it knows that it "MUST HOLD" the bite (or get stress) then the handler can focus on the actual depth of the grip. This can only be accomplished by the helper. The helper needs to relax the sleeve and allow the dog a moment to re-grip the sleeve. It does this because it knows that it must bite or get stressed.

At the instant that the dog bites deeper into the sleeve the helper adds tension to the sleeve and takes up the slack to force the dog to bite deep or lose it's grip. It has already learned that if it releases its grip it gets more stress – so most dogs will hold the bite. The end result of this training is that the dog bites deeper and holds firmer.

If you want to see this in practice I would suggest that you purchase my video The First Steps of bite Training.

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Hi Ed,

I have a 9 month old puppy. She doesn't naturally have a high food drive, so my trainer says we will need to build it. When line tracking, if she is not
REALLY, REALLY hungry, sometimes she may not care to do the exercise. (We do not feed her before training exercises.)

We have backed off on obedience training at this point since she is young, and also because she didn't really show a high interest in the food reward. Do you have a video that would help me to build this kind of drive?

Thank you :)

PS...She does well with bite work though...she loves that part!


I would not worry about tracking a puppy until it is 8 months old. This solves that problem. Some dogs don't have strong food drive. Those dogs need
to only get their food for the day on the track not at home. They learn very quickly that this is all the food they get for the day and all of a sudden they then have food drive. Use really good food on the track - determine how much food the dog should eat in the day and that's what goes on the track.

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Hi Ed,

Hope all is well in your New Year. First of all, I'm happy to see you have quite a few selections out on DVD. Rats, to bad I hadn't checked before XMAS but my birthday is in March, I'll start dropping the hints and if that doesn't work I'll just drop my own credit card. Ah, one of the perks of age, independent spending.

Next, my dog is best described as a pet. A great one at that, very middle of the road. He is neither submissive or dominant, he's not hard or soft, doesn't display sharpness or aggression. Temperament wise, I'd describe him as laid back.

His energy level, though, is high and he is very athletic. I suppose I could describe him as having prey drive but I'm not sure if I would be judging that correctly. He does love toys!!! And will chase and look for anything thrown to him and play tug with anything given to him. He also loves to chase squirrels, rabbits, etc, but finally at almost age 4 he waits until he's given the go ahead. Thanks, in no small part, to trying to follow your advice about the phases of learning. I emphasize trying, since, I'm sure if I had been consistent this would not have taken 3 years to learn.

Since he seems to love his ball, frisbee, kong, squeakies, tug toys, sticks, snowballs and even a blade of grass equally, I'm not sure he's being motivated by prey drive or the interaction with me. Is there a way to tell? He is very focused when we play and runs through his basic obedience with flying colors. We've only ever practiced basic obedience. I definitely feel he is capable of more and since I find I have a little more time on my hands, I'm considering trying tracking or obedience. Thus my interest in finding what
it is he is actually being motivated by.

Is a love of searching for hidden items an example of prey drive? I know for sure this dog will sell his soul to get a chance to find anything I hide for him. And in a woods full of sticks he always only brings back the one I hid, that does amaze me. Because I think the whole tracking experience would be rewarding to him( interpret as easier to teach......wishful thinking), that is the way I would prefer to go, however, I live in the Boston area and cannot find any Tracking clubs....any suggestions? I was waiting for your RCMP Tracking Video to come out on DVD, but couldn't find it in the list. Am I missing something? Do you think I would be able to get the basics down from your current tracking DVDs without someone knowledgeable to practice with? There are of course Obedience clubs in my area, and combined with your DVD, that might work better. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Also, do you know of anyway to incorporate his love of searching into a training program as a motivator?

By the way, I have written to you over the years and used several of your puppy videos. My dog is Thor, a white shepherd who as a 10 month old pup was attacked by coyotes. Your advice over that time was instrumental in his maintaining his easy going temperament and not suffering any ill effects.

I look forward to hearing from you and thank you for your time.



Nice to hear from you.

Your dog is showing prey/play drive in his interest in chasing and playing with you.

We do have all of the RCMP tapes converted to DVD - you can find the list of tapes that have been converted at:

I would recommend 2 of the RCMP tapes to start with. Video 205 "Tracking level 1" and Video 207 "How to Lay a Track."

If your dog does well with these you can consider the third tape Video 208 "Tracking Levels 2 and 3."

I would strongly advise not getting involved with local obedience clubs. I assure you they do not understand the correct way to train tracking. In fact 95% of the S&R groups in this country do not do it correctly (they train AIR SEARCH before TRACkING - dumb, dumb, dumb).

I think you will do just fine if you STUDY the videos. Not just watch them once - watch them again and again and again. Then have an open mind and be honest about your work.

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QUESTION on Drive for Tracking:

Hi Ed,

Please help me with a problem with my 14 month old GSD. You have kindly responded to my e-mails in the past and through your DVDS and articles I have gathered a wealth of information.

I compete in working trials and part of the nose work test is for the dog to locate and retrieve small articles hidden in a 25 yard square. This test may be performed directly after a 1,000 yard track on stubble, grass or plough on which the dog must indicate a further three articles. Therefore this means the dog must display drive to overcome any fatigue to find the articles. I have been spoilt with my previous dog that had huge levels of drive to overcome any physical tiredness. Due to illness during the first six months my dog didn’t receive as much training as I’d like, the problem seems to be a lack of drive and concentration. A thrown ball/ bite roll/piece of hose in play is sometimes chased and retrieved with average enthusiasm or sometimes the dog seems disinterested and distracted. If he does retrieve it I make a fuss and play tug of war but even then he seems half hearted and unsure. He is still very immature but please help if you have any ideas how I can work at this, if he’s not interested now with no pressure or fatigue any competition success will be impossible and when I buy a dog I can’t bring myself to part with it.

I look forward to your reply and carry on producing excellent DVDs and articles.

Yours sincerely,


This does not sound good. There is always the issue of the handler not being skilled enough to bring out the drive that is there but has not yet surfaced. I have an excellent video on this BUILDING DRIVE AND FOCUS.

I can't tell you if this will work. If the issue is a genetic problem then nothing is going to fix this dog. One thing is for sure – if the work in my DVD does not work nothing will work.

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