Lets start as an example with a video of Kenzo where I train dry weather conditions with him. Here in Denmark it is rarely hot and dry, so the weather from last week with 30C/90F gave an excellent opportunity to train this. Kenzo also doesn't like hot weather at all. Together with the fact there is not much scent on a dry track, it will ask the out most of Kenzo. The track you are about to see is a 300 step track, laid by a "strange" person, has one turn, and we use a lot of objects on the track he has to find:
Under normal weather conditions, this track would have been a piece of cake for Kenzo. But you can see how difficult he gets it by just changing one variable: the temperature. He wasn't eager to find the track, he passed some objects, and he lost the track once. Although loosing the track is not a problem at all. The important thing is that he keeps on working trying to re-find it, and he did just that.
When you are ready to raise the bar too, make sure to draw up a schedule or journal for each training exercise. Then you are sure only to raise the bar on one or two variables. Especially note the weather conditions, as they will usually change, you will need to adjust your schedule according to them. Don't move forward to soon, and redo some tracking scenario's to ensure practice and a successful outcome. Here are some variables you can start working with:
Add to the length of the track in 50-steps intervals. You can also lay separate tracks and run them as legs. Make sure to have water with you on tracks that are more then 500 steps. Have a water break not to exhaust your dog. Each training exercise should end in a success.
Instead of laying the track yourself which has a very familiar scent for the dog, let him follow the scent of a person he is unfamiliar with. This is something you need to do regularly, so your dog doesn't think the meaning is to follow your scent only.
Find the track
With the first track we had the dog laying down in the start of the track. Let him find the track by taking some steps away from it and let him search for the track. If you always indicate the start of a tracking exercise with putting on the harness, he will know it is "tracking time" and will start to look for the track himself. Move away max 10 steps from the track.
Make sure to train in different weather conditions. Extreme dry weather and extreme wet weather are difficult to track in, as these weather conditions don't hold the scent. In drougth, the lack of moisture needed by the bacteria to work and be part in producing scent is missing. They same is true with extreme wet weather, also here the bacteria are not doing their scent producing work.
Age of the track
Let the track age in 15 minute intervals. Dogs can still track even hours after the track has been laid. This is also important to train, as in the first hour of the track the human scent is prevalent. After this period, the human scent fades, and the scent of the crushed vegetation by our footsteps is all what is left. The dog has to learn also to follow these types of tracks.
Lay a track in grasslands, areas with low vegetation, forests and rural areas. And also in this order. Grasslands are the easiest, rural areas are the most difficult. When tracking in a rural area, make sure to start tracking with 30 minutes old tracks again, as it is mostly the human scent the dog can follow. But also think about tracking in a valley, or on hills. Where the wind blows of the scent differently then it would on a plain field.
Make turns on the track in different angles. Make sure to mark an upcoming turn with a marker 5 steps before the turn. When turning left, put the marker to the right of the track and vice versa when turning right. When you use a lot of turns make sure you or your tracking partner draw a map of the track. You should always know exactly where the track is, if it would be needed to help the dog.
Add distractions to the track like road crossings, change in vegetation, other persons laying tracks that cross yours, tracking along roads or farms with animals. You can use this to teach your dog to focus and not get distracted by external factors. When he does, make the stop and hold the leash until he re-finds the track. If you dog has forgot about the track, mark that with saying "No" as a correction, and put him back on the track again like if you would start the track. When crossing a road it is very likely he will loose the track. And you don't want your dog circling on a road trying to re-find it. Just move to the other side of the road and set him on the track again.
You are going to enjoy working with your dog! When you have practiced the above, you should take a moment and reflect on where you stand. You are already a pretty good tracker and very close to getting your TD certificate!
To help you draw a schedule for your training exercises, I can recommend you to read the book Tracking Dog: theory & methods, by Glenn R. Johnson. The book lays out a very balanced training schedule. And is also a very good book to learn tracking and help you troubleshoot along the way.
How to: Going your first track
Preparing to move beyond the first track: studying body language
Tracking: training turns
Kenzo on a "wet" tracking day
Note: For everybody that was asking why on earth I was wearing long trousers on such a hot day. Good question ! The answer is ticks. After the track I removed 7 ticks from Kenzo and 2 from myself that were looking for a place to dig in. Kenzo is also well protected for ticks. But this is something you have to look out for when tracking.