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Training with a tracking leash? A few practical tips how not to get entangled in it

author Lucy Byrne | Sport and travel

A handy assistant not only for dog owners, who need to work on training with their dog, but also for sport cynologists who, on the other hand, are refining the discipline called the “track” with their dogs. The original purpose of the long cord with a carbine, that’s used for it, or the tracking leash, is actually in sport. But today, the tracking leash is more often ranked in the category of training leashes and tools. They are even required from owners at some training courses. From my own experience, I can say, that dog owners go for it most often at the time, when their dog is in puberty.

A tracking leas is a long leash designed particularly to navigate the dog and to train recall commands, but also fetch as well and to unteach it some bad habits such as, for example, jumping, chasing anything that moves  - from game to runners and cyclists - and getting food in bushes and rubbish bins. Most often, you’ll encounter a selection from 10 to 20 meters and we can choose both from round and flat leashes. Before we start training the dog on a tracking leash, it should at least master walking on a normal leash on a basic level and a release command, such as “Free”.

For training with a tracking leash, similar principles apply as for training of walking on a standard short cord, particularly to pick a calm place at the beginning and not to forget about rewards. I personally switch the tracking leash with other leashes. When we’re going to a busier place, where I need to handle my dog as much as possible, I choose the adjustable or flexible leash. In traditional walks to the park, when dogs run free, I use the tracking leash. The important thing is for the dog not to feel a pull and not to be restricted when playing, for instance. The point is for it to think, that it’s free. Most dogs aren’t stupid and know that their master has them “in check”. The main role here is played by the habit. A puppy or a young dog should walk on a tracking leash until it won’t notice it.

In practice, you fasten the leash to the collar and you either leave the cord entirely free behind it and in case it’s necessary, we shorten it, or we keep the other end in our hand. On the leash, you can train the dog, but you can also normally let it play with other dogs. In both cases, we should be careful, so that the cord wasn’t stretched too much as the standard leash and so that they all wouldn’t end up all in one pile. At first, I was fighting it a bit. The tracking leash is not only demanding for your reflexes, whether we’re shortening the leash or we’re holding it the whole time, but it also gets easily caught up somewhere or entangled, preferably at night in the bushes. That’s why I recommend getting some flashier colour in the shade of yellow, orange or red, which are easy to see also in the dark.

When it comes to slower reflexes at the beginning at least, it’s handy to make little bundles in certain distances on the leash, that will help when slowing down your darling hurtling into a thick bush. Most experienced “trackers” also know, that it’s good to keep at least ¼ of the cord’s length behind you, so that they wouldn’t have to chase the dog afterwards or it wouldn’t tear their hand off when it gives a tug. Another good thing is definitely to have a harness. When the dog tugs you from any reason or you just need to pull your dog in (for example, because it’s pretending that it doesn’t hear you, see you and that you don’t actually belong to it), the harness will spread the pressure of the leash and the neck muscles won’t get strained.

And what’s it all got to do with the weather? I don’t know a dog owner who wouldn’t plan getting a puppy with respect to the season. We took in our youngest dog in the summer. Only we didn’t realise at that time, that the period of defiance, of first escapes and disobedience and therefore of training on the tracking leash will also fall on winter and the winter mud. And you don’t even have to get entangled in a ten-meter cord for you to bring back the same amount of mud as your four-legged partner :-).