Teaching Turns in Tracking


One of the major areas dogs fail TD and TDX tests and loose major points in Schutzhund is on turns. The first turn on a test or trial track always takes the largest toll. In AKC tracking there are usually several 90° turns. In Schutzhund tracking, all of the turns are 90° angles, with the exception of the FH2 track, which can go almost anywhere.

Turns are not hard to teach. Training for the effective navigation of turns comes down to knowing how to mold a dog’s behavior to match the objectives the trainer has established. Having the most effective training methology available and taking the time to work the dog will produce the desired "perfect turn"


A traditional method of teaching and working a dog on corners is to start with a series of short tracks with 90° turns on them. The turns can go right or left. After the turn, bait the toe of each foot step with a piece of hot dog or liver sausage. This will cause the dog to scent through the foot step or hot spot to get to the food.

After laying a short track with a turn, start your dog down the track and keep him moving at a slow methodical pace. If he wants to over shoot the corner rather than scent out the turn, stand still so the dog cannot go forward and off of the track. This will give him the opportunity to find the new leg of the track on his own.

 Stamping in the track does not effectively reinforce the scent trail.

To help the dog along in understanding what is happening and to learn what behaviors are expected, place an article at the turn. After placing the article, start the next leg of the track with food in front of a few footsteps down the track.


Many dogs are taught to indicate an article by downing with the article between its front feet. This training technique for indicating articles speeds up the training process. While the dog is downed at the article, watch as he starts to pick up the scent from the new leg of the track.

When the dog has the scent from the next foot print start him on the track. Be sure to give him the opportunity to work out the problem by himself.

For the dog that cannot work out the problem of the 90° turn, take him off of the track. Loop him around and back down the track six or eight feet from the article. Place the dog on a down and let him rest. Step in front of him and relay the turn with the dog watching.

The track is being reinforcing by both scent and visual example.

For the dog that has a real problem understanding what is expected on the turn, the handler may need to come along side of the dog when it downs on the article in the turn. While the dog is indicating the article, point out the next footstep with bait in front of it. When the dog shows an interest in finding the bait, start him on the track. For a dog that is very new to tracking the next few foot steps may need to be pointed out.