Versatile Hunting Dog Federation of Canada (VHDF-Canada) Blood Tracking Page

Table of Contents

This webpage was mounted on January 16, 2016 and last updated on December 22, 2019 by Sheila Schmutz

How to Train a Dog for Blood Tracking

A Blood Tracking Workshop is planned for June 23, 2019 for members of VHDF-Canada. Please email if you wish to register.

A Blood Tracking test is scheduled for August 19, 2019 in Alvena, Saskatchewan. If there are only one or two dogs entered, it may be moved to Sunday, August 20.

~ VHDF-Canada Blood Tracking Entry Form ~

How to Train a Dog for Blood Tracking

Blood from a wild ungulate appears to elicit a stronger response from a dog but beef or even chicken blood can also be used. When necessary, meat can be minced in a blender with water and this mixture will serve for training.

Blood can be squeezed from a bottle a drop, or few drops, at a time. Or blood can be spotted on the ground. To spot, use a stick and attach a small portion of a sponge at the bottom. Resaturate the 2x2x1 cm sponge after 1-3 spots. Place a spot with every step at first, gradually increasing the distance between spots of blood.

Tracks can be made more difficult and more realistic by gradually lessening the amount of blood used, and/or laying a track hours before working the dog on it. A training session should start with a short and straight track, liberally marked with blood and with no, or only a short, wait period. As the dog progresses, the task should be made more difficult to be realistic. From tracks within an hour, the wait period can be expanded up to 48 hrs. Tracks should become longer and be laid in areas where game is active. For further realism, the blood may be used at the beginning of the track only, using a so-called "track shoe" with deer hoofs attached to simulate a hoof puncturing the humus and soil in typical deer habitat.

Cast the dog on leash across the track from upwind and note the sudden uptake by the dog. The dog's changing demeanor confirms that the dog has noticed the track. Give the dog ample space on a 10 m leash. By holding on to the leash near the 5 m position, the hunter can drop the leash when a dog has wound it around a tree or shrub and take it up again on the other side. Discourage hasty tracking. A realistic and difficult track will require care and concentration on the part of the dog to work it successfully.

At the end of a track, place a meaningful item, a hide or antler, to indicate the end of the track and to give the dog a feeling of success. The dog should be amply rewarded at the end of the track with food, or play, and always with vigorous praise. Food is a good reward but this must come from the hunter, not the animal. Hand-feed the dog and discourage chewing or pulling on the animal.

Throughout, handlers should carefully study the behaviour of their dog. What are its manners and tail carriage when on the track, off track? By understanding and being able to read one's dog accurately, the hunter can be an effective participant in a canine/human team and facilitate the successful completion of a difficult task at hand.

The Same-Day Track Test

On test day, an experienced judge will lay a track in an area that could hold big game as follows:

  • Tracks should be 400 metres long, and laid in an undisturbed area that has not been hunted, used for bird work or drags in the previous 48 hours.
  • Judges should note the time when the track was laid and invite the dog/hunter team to begin tracking a minimum of 2, and preferably 5 hrs. later.
  • The start of the track should be clearly identified and laid with two gentle angles as in the figure “S,” the way in which a wounded animal might travel.
  • Judges can use vegetation features to mark the track route. If track route markers are used, these should not be visible to the handler.
  • One “wound bed” will be placed beside the track, where flattened vegetation and additional blood will simulate where an animal had lain and bled. The track should end at the second wound bed. The handler may ask that a dead animal, animal part or reward of their choice be placed at the end of the track.
  • 0.25 liters of blood should be used to lay the 400-metre track.
  • The dog is to work the track on leash. The leash should be at least 6 metres, and this length should be available to the dog during the track.
  • The dog should work the track in a calm, confident manner. Hastiness can lead to failure in very difficult situations.
  • The handler can temporarily stop the dog to look for blood him/herself. The handler can also help the dog by casting it to the appropriate area. If the dog and handler are off the track, the judges should allow self-correction by allowing the dog/handler team to be 60 metres off the track, before calling them back.
  • If the team deviates more than 60 metres from the track, the score should be lowered for each call back. If the team is called back more then two times, the track should be scored no higher than the poor category. The handler may restart the dog. However, frequent restarts or corrections by the handler should also lower the score.
  • As with field and water work, a tracking dog should display good manners on game. At the end of the track, the dog is to sit near the object (hide, skull, antler) without chewing or urinating on it.

Blood Tracking and Regulations in Canada

Through many thousands of years, humans and dogs have lived and hunted together; co-operatively forging an elegant symbiosis which still thrives. Today, the partnership takes many forms; from athletic dog sports to pet therapy to ranch chores. John Jeanneney's interest lies in the retrieval of wounded deer, using leashed tracking dogs. It is his desire to share decades worth of hard-won knowledge with other hunters, which lies at the centre of his book.

TRACKING DOGS FOR FINDING WOUNDED DEER. John Jeanneney. Berne, NY: Teckel Time Inc., 2006. 350pp.

For us to understand the long and varied history of leashed tracking dog use, he has provided an overview of general tracking techniques and the dog's use of scent, followed by excellent chapters on various breeds, their use and training, and the selection of a tracking dog prospect. Jeanneney's review of basic and advanced training techniques is well fleshed out with knowledge gained through years in the field. He thoroughly discusses various situations which might occur, such as wound types and their resulting signs and how each would change the nature of the track for dog and handler. These chapters would be useful to anyone hunting large game, with or without a leashed tracking dog. The equipment which he has found useful for tracking is well described, including pictures and some brand names.

For those handlers whose interest lies in testing their leashed tracking dogs, the chapter describing different test venues will be very useful . The final chapter deals with regional variations of tracking traditions in a very entertaining way.

Throughout the book, John Jeanneney provides anecdotes and details which give the reader great insight into the use of leashed tracking dogs in real situations. As a former history professor, he has developed a very readable and efficient writing style which suits the subject perfectly. His enthusiasm and devotion to his sport have led him to create this detailed and useful book, from which any hunter or dog handler can learn a great deal.

Thanks to the work of Jeanneney and others, the benefit of using leashed dogs for tracking has been gradually recognized by wildlife managers. Game departments have responded to this trend and many have changed their regulation to encourage blood tracking for game conservation. The Saskatchewan Wildlife Act and Regulations currently do not permit finding shoot deer with leashed dogs. It is the hope of the Saskatoon Gun Dog Club and VHDF Canada to encourage the Ministry of Environment to consider changes to the regulations to permit the use of leashed dogs for blood tracking. This is for the benefit of hunters and wildlife, especially in the snow free season. Other jurisdictions have made these changes and allow the use of leashed dogs in the table below. The table is a synopsis of some approaches by game departments in Canada and adjacent U.S. states. These results are based on telephone interviews with Conservation Officers.

Book review and telephone interviews by Nell McKim, Bruno, SK. May, 2016

A recent article by Nell McKim on a successful track she did with the OK of a Saskatchewan conservation officer. (available as a downloadable pdf) This appeared in the December 2019 issue of Outdoor Canada.

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