How to Train Bloodhounds to Track & Find People

Bloodhound trainers commonly use cloth to train bloodhounds.

Bloodhound trainers commonly use cloth to train bloodhounds.

Properly trained bloodhounds can pick up a person's scent from clothing or other material, track a person for miles and pick them out of a crowd. Police use bloodhounds to find missing people and criminals. Bloodhound training is rigorous, but you may be able to teach yours tracking at home.

Organize a search. Ask a friend or colleague to provide an article of clothing or a fresh cotton swab from behind the ears, then have them take a hike. Advise your helper to travel in any direction he chooses but to go only a short distance, say, a few hundred yards or far enough to get out of sight, for starters.

Let the bloodhound sniff the scent source. When you pull the item away, the animal should begin sniffing the surrounding area for the same scent, which is the trail left by your accomplice. Show your excitement about following the trail with an energetic voice and motions. If the animal is slow to react, try reintroducing the scent source and give the bloodhound a treat when you put it away.

Let the bloodhound loose and follow him. Bloodhounds can track in urban and wilderness environments and, in the case of the former, leash training may be necessary. If the bloodhound gets confused or loses the trail, return to an earlier spot where the animal traveled or pass whatever obstacle or feature appears to have obscured the scent.

Let your bloodhound find and approach your helper. Both you and the friend or colleague can, and should, praise the animal. The bulk of the praise and any treats should come from you, in order to reinforce your work as a team.

Repeat steps 1 through 4 on a regular basis. Once this becomes easier, try tracking a trail that's half-a-day older, then a day, and so forth, using an article of clothing or totem as a stand-in for the helper.

Tips

  • Vary the types of trails, timing and weather conditions for training. Scientific studies show bloodhounds new to tracking learn to track in tougher circumstances by practicing in tougher circumstances.
  • Remember, many bloodhounds follow scent trails set days ago more slowly and methodically than they'd follow a recent trail. Allow ample time for searches. If you push the exercise faster, the animal may be more prone to make a mistake.
  • When using an older trail, you may wish to have the person who set it meet you and the bloodhounds at the end of trail, via another access point, to reinforce the end of the exercise.

Warnings

  • In a potentially dangerous or life-or-death situation, hire a professional bloodhound tracker.
  • Learn about the tracking area before you traverse potentially dangerous terrain.
  • Bloodhounds are generally not aggressive animals. As such, use caution in areas where dangerous wildlife may be present.
 

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