How to Lose a Tracking Dog

Dogs. These four-legged creatures will soothe your soul until you ask yourself “Is this heaven?” With their quirks, cuddly head turns and heartwarming I-missed-you-licks, these adorable buddies will charm you like crazy. Although when trained they could pose as a danger, especially tracking dogs. Therefore the question is, how to lose a tracking dog?

However, these very creatures are formidable enemies. Especially if you are on the wrong side of the fence, the border or the territory of some villainous being. They will track you and they will definitely get you. They will bite you, snug you until you submit.

Why Would You Want to Lose a Tracking Dog?

a tracking dog

Although the first thing that may come to my mind is you want to lose a tracking dog because you are a convicted criminal who’s trying to flee from prison. If you are, please do me and the pursuing dog a favor and just surrender.

Chances are, you will want to lose a tracking dog if you are being pursued by hostile forces like an invading army, the enforcers of a dictator or some bad guys you stumbled upon in an unexpected encounter. No matter why you need to escape from a tracking dog, this article will provide you with the information you need for doing so.

Is it Possible to Lose a Tracking Dog?

Spoiler alert: NO. Unless the dog is poorly trained, or at least either the handler or the dog commits a blunder.

However, if the dog and the handler trailing you will not commit any type of error, you will likely be caught. Escaping from a persistent canine is not as straightforward as portrayed by movies like Cool Hand Luke.

In addition, tracking dogs and trailing dogs will follow your scent from miles away. Even a typical household dog has 125 to 220 million olfactory receptors (humans only have about 5 million). In terms of olfactory bulb to brain ratio, the olfactory bulb of dogs is forty times larger than that of humans. Hence, they have forty times stronger sense of smell. Moreover, all they need is one part of an article per trillion of other particles to be able to track you, so no matter how you try to get the smell off you, it is safe to say that you will just be wasting your time.

Furthermore, Chunks of dead cells will fall from you no matter how slowly you move or how many times you wash, so unless you can eliminate all those dead cells every now and then, the dogs can follow your trail for days.

Tracking Dogs are Highly-Trained

Bloodhoun, how to lose a tracking dog
A bloodhound, a special breed of dog built for tracking

Bloodhounds, in particular, are almost impossible to escape from. They are the best of the best in terms of tracking and trailing, thanks to their 300 million olfactory receptors, innate fetish to follow a trail and the physiology of their ears and shawl that improves their trailing abilities, you can rest assured that you will not be able to lose them. Yep. That’s right. It’s as if bloodhounds are designed for the sole purpose of tracking. Their ears help them cover an article when tracking, hence they will be able to isolate the smell and memorize it. In addition, their shawl catches smell drifting from the air, so there’s less chance of missing molecules of your dead cell.

If it is Impossible to Lose a Tracking Dog, How Do I Escape From Them?

Sounds hopeless right? They can follow your trail and distinguish your smell, so why bother? It’s hopeless, unless you wear a spacesuit, can fly, or you can find a way to remove that last one in a trillion particle that will give your trail away (like, being Antman?)

Consequently, it’s not totally hopeless. You can apply various measures to increase your chance of surviving a pursuit. Read on to find out more.

Tips for Escaping From a Tracking Dog

You should have two goals while trying to escape:

  1. Make the pursuing team blunder so much so that you can keep your distance.
  2. Exhaust the dog so that the pursuing team will be replaced by a new one, thus giving you more time and opportunity to keep the gap between you and the trailing teams.

1) Helping the Team Commit Blunders

One factor on how to lose a tracking dog that is often overlooked is that the dog and the handler do not fully understand each other. Although they may have shared enough time for them to be able to empathize with each other and have their own “lingo” and gestures to express commands and coordination, there’s no such thing as a universal translator attached to the dog’s collar.

Furthermore, there are chances that either the dog or the handler will misinterpret the other. For example, if the dog is rewarded when one of your tracks is found, the dog may interpret it as a reward for finding the track instead of following your trail properly. As a result, the dog will find your tracks instead of trails, effectively disabling the team from cutting corners. Moreover, there are many other possibilities that can happen, but each one of them has a very slim chance of happening. Take note, however, that such blunders may happen without the handler knowing it, so it will be very beneficial to your escape if it ever happens.

Although it may seem ridiculous, such mistakes actually happen in the field, especially to tracking dogs who have no experience or getting older. This happens because of the phenomenon which is known as extinction.


Extinction refers to the decline in the performance of a trained animal resulting from changes to environmental factors. That is, animals have a tendency to commit mistakes if they are in a condition that is not an EXACT copy of the condition they were trained in. For instance, a sniffing dog who was trained with a harness on may stop sniffing if they wear no harness for whatever reason.

A tracking dog may be trained, but unless the dog has wide experience in the field, blunders resulting from extinction can happen. In order to lose a tracking dog, you will need much luck for this, but frankly, escaping from a bloodhound will require not only skill but a lot of luck. Yep. That’s right. There’s no absolute way to escape, but you can maximize your chances.

2) Exhaust the Dog

This one requires little to no luck, but you will need to have the stamina and some stealth skills needed. We will move on to the specifics of both making the team commit mistakes and exhausting the dog later. Exhaustion is one way to lose a tracking dog.

Chances are, you never even thought about outrunning the dog. Well, it is ironically your best bet. Dogs have less stamina compared to humans. They are much, much, muuuuuccchhhhh faster in terms of raw speed, but they also have small lungs. Therefore exploit it as your advantage.

If you manage to tire the pursuing team, they will have to retreat and call for backup, unless the handler decides to piggyback the exhausted dog while tracking you. This can give you a significant amount of time to escape and flee to your desired location. Moreover, a panting dog will not be able to sniff properly. Thus, they will require larger concentrations of particles of a scent to be able to track you. While this is never enough to throw the dog off the scent, it will definitely slow the pursuing team down.

Tips on How to Lose a Tracking Dog

Finally, the list you have been waiting for. With the principles above in mind, let us now move on to what you can do to lose a tracking dog and make the team blunder. I will also include popular dog-losing myths in the list below.

1) Try to Pass Through Uphill Terrain

Passing through uphill terrain will sap the dog’s stamina more than the energy you will use, thanks to the fact that you walk upright and have a lot more stamina than a dog. However, if a tracker knows a way around the hill that will easily lead to the opposite side, you lose the energy advantage you are supposed to have.

Consequently, if they try to deviate from the path because of the uphill terrain, they will have to look for your trail at the other side of the hill, so it will give you some time to increase the gap. Moreover, the dog has a tendency to misinterpret the sudden deviation from the track and end up confused, thus giving you even more time.

In addition, you can also opt for turning by 45 degrees once you are at the top of the hill so that you delay them more if ever they assumed that you will move in a straight line.

2) Ledges are Your Best Friends

Dogs can’t climb up or down ledges. Therefore, if you manage to find a ledge with a distant way around, consider passing through the ledges. This will force the team to either take the time to get the dog up or down the ledge or circle around. Either way, you buy yourself precious time. Furthermore, the latter will force the team to leave your trail then track it again as they circle around.

3) Pass Through Rocky Areas

Unless the dog wears some sort of dog hiking shoes, passing through rocky terrain can slow them down and even add to the stress and exhaustion to the dog. Take note, however, that you should be very careful not to injure yourself. Keep your eyes peeled for rock formations that can easily flip when stepped on, especially if the rocky area is near a river.

4) Move Across Streams

Legend has it that streams will wash your odor away, hence dogs won’t be able to follow you. Unfortunately, this is nothing short of an urban myth popularized by movies. The stream will only wash small chunks of your dead cells, and you will not be able to eliminate all the smell. Worse, the water dripping from you will leave a stronger trail once you start traveling again.

The only instance you will want to cross a stream is if you find a way that you can cross it without the dog being able to do so. For instance, you can cross it if there is a perfectly navigable path of rocks that the dog won’t be able to cross. By perfectly navigable, we mean a path of rock that you can cross without slipping, though I find such a crossing almost impossible to find to help you lose a tracking dog.

5) Do Not Move Erratically

Survivalists and not-so-survivalists will advise you to move erratically so that your trail will be harder to follow and so that you will easily exhaust the dog and therefore help you lose a tracking dog. Unfortunately, too much erratic movement can tire you too. Worse, the dog may find a way to cut corners, hence closing the gap.

Instead of moving in a zigzag manner, you should move in a straight path, then do some occasional 30 or 45 degree turns. The purpose of this is neither to confuse nor to exhaust the dog, but to prevent them from predicting your route. One of the things that are exponentially worse than having a trailing dog behind you is having another team of trackers waiting for you on the path ahead.

6) Move Through Obstacles that will Exhaust the Dog

This one is pretty much self-explanatory. If you move through obstacles such as fallen logs, stumps and rock formations, the dog will require more energy to follow your exact path. Moreover, a little luck will cause the dog to blunder as the handler forces the dog from going through the obstacles.

7) Move neither Upwind nor Downwind

Most other survival blogs will tell you to move upwind (towards the wind). I find myself triggered by this suggestion, especially when they talk about it as your salvation. First, dispersing your scent alone will NOT save you since the dog will eventually (and even IMMEDIATELY) be able to find your original trail, though it can be helpful as it reduces the concentration of your scent in the actual path you take. Second, the moving upwind will disperse your trail forward, so the scent will be delayed, but not eliminated. Hence, I suggest moving crosswind.

Moving crosswind will disperse your scent (at least some of the falling dead cells) away from your actual path, so the concentration of your scent in your true path is reduced. Thus, the tracking dog will require a little more amount of time to pick up your scent. This may seem negligible, but a few extra minutes is a big deal when it comes to a pursuit.

8) Don’t Even Bother Masking Your Smell

Here is yet another tip that makes no sense. Once again, it is worth mentioning that dogs, especially tracking dogs, and even more especially bloodhounds, can distinguish one scent from another, no matter the number of different scents in the area. So, no more dead fishes on the road and pulling a carcass with you OK?

9) Peppers are Helpful, to a VERY Limited Extent

Here is another popular tip from the movies, believers of the movies and some survivalists. I won’t contradict this one, but keep in mind that its helpfulness will only be limited. In fact, it may not even be practical to do if you have to procure pepper.

Supposedly, sprinkling some pepper in your trail will throw off the scent of a dog, overload the sense of smell or at least confuse the poor dog. Unfortunately, this won’t happen. The dog’s olfactory bulb may be overloaded or irritated for a couple seconds or minutes, but all it will take is a single sneeze. Why do you think does the good ol’ pupper sneeze for? To entertain you?

Discovery’s Mythbusters once debunked this and found that a bloodhound’s smell will not be thrown off no matter what they do. The pepper only disturbed the bloodhound for a while, but the dog easily got back on following the trail.


Unfortunately for evaders, there is no such thing as a surefire way to lose a tracking dog. You will need both luck and skill as you try to tire the dog and hope that the pursuing team will blunder every now and then. Hence, you better train your endurance NOW because you will need it, not just for evading trailing dogs but for surviving whatever stuff hits the fan.

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Written by James Bana

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