We are going back to training on the 1st of January, because my dog is practically a pro, I've been making a huge attempt at tracking with him. We are so far behind. The thing about tracking is that I have limited knowledge on teaching it/training it, and without a club or other people to track with, it's hard to be motivated.
First I guess I will share the limited knowledge I have on tracking, what I use for bait, my track laying method etc and then I will share a couple of videos of my dogs following a track.
In IPO tracking the dog is following the scent of crushed vegetation or disturbed soil. Their nose should be on the ground, they shouldn't air scent.
I use Natural Balance or off brand food logs. The large logs can be cut into small pieces and frozen for later use. They are about $10-$12 for a big one and it gives me 6 sandwhich bags full of bait for all of my tracking and training needs!
I am very limited in my tracking knowledge. I know you should watch for wind and you shouldn't lay a track on freshly cut grass as it can be really hard for the dog to follow. I also think tracking in tall grass almost makes it too easy for the dog because they can see the path of the track - but I don't know this for sure. I think tall grass would be helpful for a dog and owner first starting out because it would make it nearly impossible to lose your track.
I lay a track by finding a spot in a field, you find your starting point, set a flag in the ground to your left and make a scent pad. The scent pad should be like 2ft x 2ft in the beginning to help your dog get used to the smell of crushed vegetation. You basically stomp around in a square, and then put a small handful of treats in the middle. From the scent pad you walk heel to toe, putting food in every step [when you are just starting out]. Initially you should go in straight lines and as your dog builds confidence start adding soft arcs or even circles. As your dog progresses you can start baiting every other step, progressively baiting less and less. You end your track by making another scent pad, maybe 1ft by 1ft, and adding a handful of treats.
There are many ways you can set your dog up for tracking. You can use a harness and 6ft lead[or 12ft], you can simply have the leash attached to their collar, or you can put them on a long line [12ft] and string it between their front legs and let them track that way. I started Seth with the leash attached to his collar but not between his legs. When we trained up in Washington I started putting the lead between their front legs.
Something that I would encourage you NOT to allow your dog to do, is back tracking. When I started Seth the trainer we worked with told me not to allow him to turn around and back track, I would follow next to Seth and encourage him forward if he lost the track. With Seppel, he was allowed to back track a little and it's become a bad go to for him if he loses the track. Instead of turning around, the dog should work the track sniffing the foliage ahead of him to find the "broken" section where you've laid your track. When they have tracked enough they can easily differentiate what portion of grass has been walked on and what portion hasn't.
As far as commands go, I use "such"[sook], which means "track" in German. You could use "Find it" or "search".
When I trained Seth to track I taught him to do so on a loose leash. Seppel on the other hand has learned to pull when he is tracking. As of late I use a 12ft line and I try to keep loose tension. I would prefer my dog not to be frantically pulling but I do want them engaged and going forward on the track. I think whether or not they pull is a personal preference, but most people I've trained with prefer a slack line.
Here is a video of an IPO III dog from here in the NW, he's amazing and has been trained using positive methods, this just give you an idea as far as leash tension and what I think would be preferable:
Another portion of tracking is articles and article indication however we've barely started article training and until I get further into it, or learn more about it I don't really have anything exciting to share in that respect.
Here are some videos of Seth and Seppel tracking:
I hope this was a reasonable intro to tracking. Seth absolutely loves to track and I hope in the future he can earn a tracking title or two. Seppel isn't naturally good at it, but I feel like he's coming along and learning to follow his nose more and more! Both dogs seem to enjoy it and know what we're doing as soon as they see the flags.