DOG GUIDETraining & Behavior

How To Train A Dog To Track Deer

Some deer hunters use dogs to monitor deer. Often the purpose of the tracking is to have the dogs pursue the deer in the direction of the hunter, and at other times the purpose is to have the dogs track the deer that has been injured and has run away into the woods. For any reason, it is important to guide dogs through an effective training program that will prepare them to successfully monitor the deer. Do you know how to train a dog to track deer?

How To Train A Dog To Track Deer

how to train a dog to track deer

If you’re thinking about training your tracking dog for this fall, it’s time to focus on the basics.

No one wants to lose a deer, but it happens to anyone who shoots enough of them. Luckily, it is now legal in 36 states to use a tracking dog in any form to help retrieve the injured animal. Some people with tracking dogs stay busy with calls almost every day of the season. But most of them are just avid deer hunters who have a blood dog “on the side” that they use to help their animals heal and help those in need.

A. Shop To Get A Nose.

There are some excellent breeds — bloodhounds, dachshunds, curses, Lacy puppies — but your lab or star from Bubba’s litter of mutts could also work on a blood trail.

There is no need for spotless pedigree, but there is a decent nose. And it doesn’t hurt to have a dog with a bloodline tracking background. A dog that kills squirrels by sight would be of no use to locate a pinprick of 20-hour-old blood. You will need to ask questions about your physical ability. Can you handle a high-strung, 100-pound bloodhound, or is a 20-pound dachshund faster than your speed?

B. You Work On A Lead.

Although there are exceptions, most states require trackers to keep their dogs on leash or lead. In the field, the most practical way to do this is by adding the lead to the vest’s back, similar to those worn by service dogs. (I need a reflective jacket for my puppy since a lot of tracking is done in the dark.)

Some dogs are hesitant to wear a jacket at first, so acclimatizing them with positive reinforcement is one of the first training phases. 

C. Cane Poles

Either a dog has an inherent tracking instinct, or it doesn’t. If he does, you need to teach him to be focused on a particular track. Start with a puppy with a slice of hot dog dipped in deer blood at the end of a long cane pole. This helps you to distinguish the trail from your footsteps that several pups are prone to follow. The first tracks of a pupa maybe just 25 yards long around the front lawn. When he finds a hot dog, let him eat it and give him a lot of praise. Limit these sessions a few days a week, progressively increasing the duration, complexity, and age of the mock tracks.

When the dog matures, replace the hot dog with a deer leg and hoof, soaked in blood, and keep the squirt bottle of blood ready to smooth the route along the way. Build routes in the woods with turns, stream crossings, and other obstacles. Wait a few hours after making a track before putting your dog on it, and train with a headlamp at night.

D. Track The Deer.

The best mock trail you can make is not a replacement for the real thing. Put your young dog on any track you can go hunting season, including when you see a dead deer. A few simple tracks with guaranteed success build your dog’s confidence. They also encourage you to see how your dog is doing on the trail. Most dogs can offer visual clues when they have a hot smell, like a crouched pose or a sudden snap of the head. Other signals aren’t as subtle as that: levee barks when we’re about to encounter a deer.

How To Train A Dog To Track Deer: Phase 1

Choose a young dog that comes either from purebred hounds or from hound mixtures. Walkers, Setters, Beagles, and Bluetick dogs also make excellent deer dogs. It’s also best to start training a dog from the age of three to six months.

How To Train A Dog To Track Deer: Phase 2

Feed your dog with a nutritional diet to ensure that it is in good condition for hunting. Consult the Resources section for advice on what to feed your dog, as well as the amount of food your dog needs.

How To Train A Dog To Track Deer: Phase 3

Expose the dog to the fragrance of a deer. Scatter any drops of blood across the ground if you’re planning on tracking the injured deer on your dog. If you want your dog to detect running deer (not wounded), use a piece of deer hide (preferably from the leg portion near the tarsal gland) to expose it to the scent of a deer.

How To Train A Dog To Track Deer: Phase 4

Drag the hide or spread the blood across the field away from the sight of the puppy. Then place the dog at the beginning of the trail to let them smell where you went.

How To Train A Dog To Track Deer: Phase 5

Ride your dog around with you when you’re hunting for deer in places that are heavily populated with deer. When you see a deer, quickly take the dog out and position it where the deer was, hoping it will pick up the smell and start tracking.

How To Train A Dog To Track Deer: Phase 6

Using another more seasoned dog to help train your new dog. An older, slightly slower dog is ideal for the training of younger dogs. Release both dogs where you have recently seen a deer, and let the younger dog learn more about the old dog’s tracking.

How To Train Your Tracking Dog

how to train a dog to track deer

Working dog breeds, such as German Shepherds and Golden Retrievers, are excellent candidates for active field search dogs. Yet how are searching and rescue dogs trained? There are five steps that are usually used during dog search training to guide and teach dogs.

The first thing you need to remember is that K9 search and rescue training is a gradual process, as every dog reacts differently to training methods. You’ve got to be careful as dogs develop at various speeds. Second, not all search and rescue dogs conduct the same kind of search. You’ve got your tracking (or trailing) dogs, and then you’ve got your air-scented (or area-search) dogs. This post will review the training phase for the former category of dogs, but we will address the latter in a future article.

While the forms (track and search) may overlap, the real difference between the two is the training phase and how the dog actually engages in the missions.

A tracking dog operates by placing its nose to the ground and following a human scent trail. They can track anything from a missing child to a person stuck in a collapsed building. Tracking dogs need a “last seen” starting point and an object that has the scent of the search subject on it. Time is important for tracking dogs, as fragrance trails can easily become polluted.

It is important that search and rescue dogs specializing in tracking go through proper training to do their best work. They will also require advanced search and rescue dog gear. Bear in mind that the following steps provide a high-level description of dogs’ tracking (or trailing) and should in no way be regarded as exhaustive training methods.

Step 1: Implementation Of A Short Quest

At this initial phase of search and rescue dog training, the tracking dog is usually put in a rescue dog harness with a 20-to 30-foot leash. This will allow the dog to realize that it’s time to work when the gear goes on.

Training will begin with the removal of a perfume object (a training bag) and the development of a perfume pad. A perfume article is an object that has only been touched by a search topic and can be used for monitoring and training purposes. It allows the dog to get a thorough scent of the subject. A scent pad is when a search subject brushes his feet a few times on the ground to give a strong scent. This area and the perfumed article, should then be shown to the dog and given the trained command to obtain the perfume. It is at this point that the handler may order the dog to start tracking the search subject.

To set the scene for the tracking dog, the search subject should be concealed in an easily detectable position (the difficulty of hiding will increase as the training continues). After the dog has been shown both the perfume pad and the perfumed article and directed to scan, the dog should begin to follow the perfume and the pre-placed treatments leading to the search topic. Provide the dog with treats or their favorite toy, along with enthusiastic praise, to reward them for discovering the hunt’s subject.

This exercise should be carried out daily, with fewer and fewer treatments each time. Adjust the landscape by training in parks, fields, yards, or wooded areas. Heavy vegetation and concrete locations should be avoided during this process.

Step 2: More Complicated Short Quest

Phase 2 of this form of dog search training continues short-term testing with the use of perfume items, perfume pads, and a few treatments every 5 to 10 steps. But now, the duration of the quest is increasing. During this process, start adding more variety to the locations and terrain, keeping the quest straight.

Step 3: Implementation Of Longer, Harder Searches

Now, you’ll want to start adding curves to the quest route and finally avoid using track treats. As your tracking dog gets better and better, start rising the scope, continuously exposing your dog to a variety of terrains, and using leather dog booties if you’re going through really rugged terrain.

how to train a dog to track deer

Step 4: Use The Unknown Search Topic

At this point, your tracking dog should be able to locate a search topic on different terrains using perfume items and perfume pads. In order to increase their abilities, this is the point at which an unknown quest topic is usually added. At this point, your dog should no longer need the care to be monitored successfully.

Step 5: Use Of The Diversion Search Topic

When you enter step 5, your tracking dog should be ready for the certification exam.

In the final step of the search and rescue training, you can use both a search subject and an individual to serve as a diversion. The perfume article should still be used, but the search subject and the “distraction” subject should switch away from each other at a predetermined point. To be successful, the tracking dog should remain on the track of the search subject and locate it despite the distraction.

It’s important to perform these drills regularly to keep your dog’s tracking skills sharp. Again, it is important to note that this is a quick description of the techniques used to train a search and rescue dog. This should not be considered as a detailed dog search training guide. Visit to see the national requirements for search and rescue teams.

Search and rescue dogs are highly useful in saving human lives or working on an investigation case. Scent identification skills can naturally differ by breed, but by properly training and working with your tracking dog, you’ll give them the best chance to track down just about anything.

Final Words

Many dogs have trouble tracking because they get tired or distracted by more interesting stuff like hot deer lines. Under normal circumstances, almost every hunting dog can follow a bloodline on the day before if it is inspired. Focus on rewarding the dog with praise and positive reinforcement.

Before a dog becomes useful for locating a wounded deer, it must be able to hold its attention on the old wounded deer line even when faced with a healthy deer or hotline. When the dog knows what will operate over bloodlines, where the deer are known to be present, use positive reinforcement for what the dog is doing well rather than negative punishment for error. The more inspired the dog is to please you, the easier it will be to train.