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Hello,

I have recently discovered a passion for training dogs since owning my now 18 month old Mali (Finn) who has been an amazing companion. Although we have always had dogs as a family I have never had a dog who just wants to work for me quite like Finn does... Until today when we decided to try tracking. It was something that I had wanted to try for a while but just haddn't got around to, he is a dog who is captivated by smells and when he sniffs something he likes gets the chatters.

Today I took him to the feilds on base, where I had him wait off to one side while I lay the track (This may be the issue it was my first time doing this.) the ground was rather hard and frosty but I made clear marks and at the toe end of each step I placed a piece of hot dog.

I went and collected him from his waiting position and brought him over to the start of the track in a calm fashion, and I directed him to the first footprint to get started. He didn't use his nose and just instantly went for the treat before looking up confused. I then tried to get him to sniff the first footprint again, hoping he would catch on and follow that to the next and the next and the next.

Low and behold, 5 or 6 minutes later he is baffled and confused as I continue to get him to try and walk down this track and eventually decided to try and let him free ball it and see what happened. I said "Find" which we have done previously just hiding stuff around the house, but in his infinite wisdom he could already see the pieces of hotdog and proceeded to go from piece to piece to piece without using his nose (Or to me being an unexperienced trainer seemed like he didn't)

It is rare that I ever look at a problem and think... Jheeze I have no idea what my next step is but I am hoping that someone here will be able to provide me with some kind of guidance/videos to try and follow. I am hoping to try and do IGP/IPO at some stage, but with very little in the way of established clubs where I am based in the UK I am having to go it alone.
 

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Here is how I set up a track for a completely green dog - you may already know this but I'll write it out anyway.

1. Make a scent pad, take your feet and make a little rectangle by disturbing the dirt, about the width of 4 of your feet and 6inches to both the front and back.
2. Stepping forward not far at all, each step drag and cut your feet into the dirt.
3. As you are scraping your feet, drop a treat in your previous footstep, do not step outside of the disturbed dirt, just bend down and place it on the previous one and cover it up a little bit. Your pup is new, for the first few tracks just it'll be like 2 steps. Not far at all. You will see why when you go to run the track. The pup needs to be immediately rewarded when his nose hits the ground and you don't want to pass the reward.
4. Stop dragging your feet and walk down the same path you created, let's say 10 feet and make a 90 degree turn to your right or left, then take another 10 feet and 90 degree back near your starting point. Pay attention to not walk near the track / scent pad you just laid.
5. Grab the pup, and walk to your scent pad.
6. Pup needs to be on-leash, get low, give the command and present the ground using your hand. Some dogs/handlers need leash control to get the dog to look down, some dogs will follow the hand presentation. Start moving. Let your dog work, don't drag him but don't let him get distracted.
7. Dog should be on your side, you should be crouching-ish walking. weird, but you'll know when you're doing it right :)
8. Over time, you make your steps longer, your "digs" less deep each step and thinning out the reward throughout the track.

Malinois tend to use their vision significantly more than something like a shepherd from what I have experienced, so don't get discouraged if your dog isn't nose to the ground like a bloodhound. A good Mali will bounce their head up and down, look smell look etc.

Hope that helps
 

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I don't think it's too late to start training. Dogs can learn all their life, and an 18-month-old Mal is certainly in his prime. I'm sure if you read more about tracking, talk to some experienced owners, maybe get help from trainers, you'll manage to do it. Best of luck :)
 
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