When you take your hound out for a walk, is it as though you suddenly don’t exist? Is it impossible to get their attention when a fun smell wafts past that sensitive sniffer?
Hounds are notorious for being “stubborn”. The truth is, they can be wonderfully focused once you learn to hold their attention.
What Your Hound Wants You To Know
First and foremost, understand that even if your dog seems to totally ignore you sometimes, they do not do that intentionally.
When dogs are on the trail of a scent, it can be as though they are in a trance. They may be essentially deaf to the sound of your voice.
If your dog takes a long time to return to you, it’s important that you’re as cheery as ever, and reward them just as generously as you would if they returned instantly. Returning to you should always be highly rewarding.
Your hound was built to take in the aromas of the world around them. It’s impossible to compete with the scents that have seduced that spectacular nose – so don’t.
Working with your dog’s sense of smell, rather than against it, is the key to turning them into a reliable recaller.
Off-Leash Training For Hounds: What You’ll Need
Ready to train? Make sure you have everything you need to set your dog up for success.
A long line is the safest way to practice off-leash training in an unsecured area.
The Premack Principle: The Key To Off-Leash Training For Hounds
Most of us are familiar with the general concept of the premack principle, even if not by name.
If you ever told your kids to finish their veggies before they could have ice cream, you’ve got the idea down. You can increase the likelihood of a less fun behaviour (eating veggies) by following it with a more fun behaviour (eating dessert).
In your dog’s case, you can increase the likelihood that your dog will stop sniffing to come to you (not so fun) by rewarding them with an opportunity to sniff their heart out (all the fun).
The Sprinkles Game
The Sprinkles game, coined and trademarked by world-renowned dog trainer Sally Hopkins, is an easy way to engage your hound’s love and talent for sniffing.
To play, you’ll need a handful of moist, smelly treats, like small pieces of chopped cheese, scrambled eggs, beef, or chicken.
You simply scatter the food across a wide area, ideally while your dog is not looking. Then, call your dog over and give them a chance to discover the treats. There’s no need to direct them or help them find wayward pieces. The benefit of using soft, smelly treats is that there will be a lot of residue about, helping to extend the hunt.
Do not be tempted to help them find the treats. The idea is to have Fido sniffing a long time to find them all. You can expect your dog to sniff for every morsel you have thrown out. Fido may work on his sniffing for 20-30 minutes. This could be a good time for you to check your emails! This can be mentally exhausting for your dog.
If you are doing this in a park without fences keep a 30 Ft. leash on so you are able to bring him back to you if nescessary.
It’s best to limit the Sprinkles game to a specific work area, rather than doing it everywhere you go. You wouldn’t want your dog to get into a habit of scavenging everywhere they go in hopes of stumbling upon a jackpot of food.
Join The Fun
Though you may not have even a fraction of the sniffing capabilities as your hound, you can still get involved in their excitement when they’re outside. Try encouraging them to sniff an interesting rock, or lead them to the infamous neighborhood “pee tree”.
The goal is to show your dog that you don’t see sniffing as a bad thing, and that sometimes, when you call them off a scent, there’s going to be an even better scent reward in it for them.
Play Guess The Hand
When you call your dog, switch it up once in a while, rather than just delivering a treat to their mouth.
Try concealing their treat in one hand and presenting both closed fist to your dog. Let them sniff to figure out which hand holds the treat. You can also try holding a treat in one hand, and a jackpot of treats in the other.
Help With Off-Leash Training For Hounds
Every dog is different. For a customised training plan and step-by-step guidance from a positive trainer who is experienced with hounds, get in touch with Healthy Houndz.
We offer remote training for clients worldwide. Set up your free 30-minute phone consultation today to get started on your way to the well-trained dog of your dreams.