How can I possibly handle scent?

8 Apr 2022, 8:03 a.m. by Tracey McLennan


This question is one of the most common – and one that has people really scratching their head.

I used to ask this all the time. I’d say: “I don’t understand how I can possibly make any progress with Cuillin’s recall when I can’t tell if we are somewhere distracting or not.”

Cuillin was my collie cross dog and if he smelled something exciting, he would sometimes be gone for hours. The scent of prey animals was a huge problem for me, and I used to talk to everybody I could about it. I found that it made everybody scratch their head and wonder as well (and probably feel grateful that their dog wasn’t like Cuillin).

At this time of year, the dogs who will take off after wildlife scent are often particularly tricky to walk. Spring brings so much wildlife activity that for dogs whose prey drive is triggered by scent; it can be mind-blowing.

If this is happening to you, here is what to do.

Use your lead or long line. Walk around an area first with your dog attached to you and watch them. Learn to observe your dog’s reactions so that they tell you when there is wildlife around even when you can’t see anything.

Then, if your dog can focus on you and be engaged with your and you are happy that you aren’t going to walk across a deer trail that will cause your dog to disappear, you can spend some time with your dog off lead. Work on recalls in a fun way, play scent games with your dog. Then, before you move on, reattach the lead or long line.












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Or you could join my Facebook group Support for high prey drive dogs.











Hi - I'm Tracey

I am the author of Canine aggression: Rehabilitating an aggressive dog with kindess and compassion and founder of Best Dog Learning and Stuff Ltd. I specialise in helping people with dogs who have a high prey drive. I have an honours degree in Canine behaviour and training, am a Tellington TTouch practitioner, and an ACE Advanced Tutor. I am currently studying for an MSc in Applied Animal Behaviour and Training.


I love to hear from people who read my blog so if you want to let me know what you thought, email me on tracey@bestdoglearningandstuff.co.uk