How Do I Train My Dog to Track Scents?

The nose of a dog is an organ of wonder because of the extraordinary sense of smell. Dogs can use their noses for different functions such as detecting tumors in cancer patients or tracking missing people. All dogs have a strong sense of smell, but only if you train them.

Scent training your dog is not only good for you but to the pooch too. It can help boost the dog’s self-esteem and sharpen his mind. Below are scent training tips for your dog.

What you need for the training

  • Birth essential oils
  • Tweezers
  • Cotton swabs
  • Disposable gloves
  • A glass jar
  • Plastic container
  • High-value treats
  • Scent vessel
  • Prepare the Scent Vessel and Odor

Apply two drops of the birch essential oil to two cotton swabs and put them in the glass jar. Wear disposable gloves while prepping the odor. The dog should be far away from where you are preparing your scent.

Remove the gloves carefully, ensuring that the scent doesn’t come into contact with your hands or clothes. Roll the gloves in a paper and dispose them in a trash can immediately.

Take a cotton swab from the jar and place it in the scent vessel. Use your tweezers to handle the cotton swabs.

Teach the dog to identify the scent

Hold the treat on one hand and the scent vessel on the other. The dog will investigate the tin once he stops smelling and licking the hand with the treat. Reward the pooch with food using the hand with the tin. It’s important to feed the dog at the source of the odor.

Repeat the procedure a few times and switch the treat to the other hand. It will ensure that the dog doesn’t depend on memory to select the hand to go to.

Move on to the next step if your pooch can identify each scent in few seconds.

Train him on how to find the scent

Start by putting the scent vessel into a plastic container. Hold the plastic container in your hand and see whether your dog recognizes the scent. Feed the dog at the container if he recognizes the scent successfully.

Place the container on the ground and repeat the process. You can then place the container in a room while the dog is in another room. Bring the dog into the room and check whether he identifies the scent. You can then train outdoors when you feel that he is ready.

Tips for training your dog to track scents

Start in the morning

You need a grassy area such as a park or baseball field when training outdoors. Also, remember to carry your dog’s favorite treats. Don’t overstuff the dog’s stomach since it will reduce his concentration. Ensure that you start very early in the morning before anyone has walked on the grass.

Train his eyes, nose, and ears at once

Begin by placing the scent vessel on the floor where the dog can see it. It will allow him to identify the scent vessel by its appearance. Let the dog watch you place the scent vessel on the floor for maximum results.

Put the pooch on a leash and use verbal commands to see whether he retrieves the vessel. Lead him to the scent if he can’t retrieve it. Reward the pooch with treats, rubs, or praise once he seizes the scent vessel.

Repeat the procedure until he responds to the command on his own. The dog will connect the command to the scent after repeating the process several times.

Ensure that you have a relationship with your dog

A dog can only be able to train successfully if he trusts you. Build a good rapport with your pooch, especially if he is new.

One of the best ways to establish a relationship is by grooming. Grooming also helps check the dog for any injuries. It’s hard to notice any issues through the thick fur.

Be consistent

Lay the training foundations during the rapport-development time. Reward good behavior with treats, play, and praise.

Don’t let your dog get away with anything that you won’t accept later. Ensure that your voice is consistent when saying commands. Don’t ever change the command or say it if you are not ready to reward.

It takes time

Don’t expect immediate results after you begin training the dog. Dogs are different, and some can grasp things faster than others. Don’t move to advanced tasks if he isn’t grasping the basic ones. Give the dog time to master the basics, refreshing them regularly. Letting problems slide can be hard to fix later.

Dogs have bad days

Sometimes, dogs don’t want to train and will not perform well even after some weeks of good results.

Don’t get mad or force the dog if it isn’t working. Forcing him will frustrate or make you angry, which will worsen the situation. Note that it might be a medical issue that’s making the dog behave differently.

Dogs are living things and have emotions and feelings too. Forcing a dog to train can harm the rapport that you have worked for.

Don’t replace playing time with training

Dogs, like humans, need to have fun. Training is not part of play, and dogs can realize that too. You will ruin your relationship with the pooch if your dog only sees you for training. A happy dog will want to please you by doing the right thing. Let the dog run, play with toys, and relax in the sun.

Not every dog can learn how to track scents effectively

The success of a dog to learn how to track scents depends on behavior and health. Also, some breeds are willing to learn while others aren’t.

You can’t force your dog to do something that it doesn’t want. If your dog doesn’t learn the basics after months of training, then maybe scent tracking isn’t for him. Let him do whatever he likes doing.


Having a dog that can track scents is fun. However, dogs are our best friends, and you can find other ways of having fun. Make sure you find a balance between training and playing.

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