Hunting with dogs is a pastime that stretches across the world and across centuries. Even when we were living in caves, dogs were chosen as hunting partners because they were able to track and retrieve prey with precision. But how do they learn what prey to pursue?

There are numerous breeds classified as hunting dogs, but they can be divided into three main groups: hounds, gun dogs, and flushing dogs. Hounds are able to use their enhanced sense of smell to find prey, while gun dogs are trained to react to the sound of a shotgun and retrieve prey their owners have killed.

Flushing dogs, the third group, are usually small and fast (think terriers). They dart into the holes of wild animals and chase them out. Once the startled quarry is out in the open, the hunter can kill it.

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As modern technology has progressed, so have hunting techniques. We now use different methods when hunting with dogs, especially when it comes to training. Today, we’ll tell you about breaking scents for hunting dogs and how they’ll maximize your dog’s performance as a hunter.

Breaking Scents for Hunting Dogs – Every Hunter's Favorite Tool

What Are Breaking Scents for Hunting Dogs

What are breaking scents and trailing scents used for?

Breaking scents for hunting dogs are a training tool to teach your dog what NOT to hunt by familiarizing him with the scent of a particular animal. For example, if you’re hunting quail in an area heavily populated with foxes, you need to teach him not to follow the fox scent. If he becomes familiar with the fox scent, he won’t react to it when hunting because it’s no longer new or exciting.

Using a breaking scent will “break” your dog of his desire to chase trails of animals that are not the prey, and when a new trail that doesn’t have the familiar smell is introduced, he’ll be able to follow it easily. That type of familiarity training is often aided by attaching a piece of cloth soaked in the scent of the unwanted animal to his collar or in the vicinity where he’ll be hunting. Once the scent becomes commonplace and he's trained to ignore it, if necessary, you can introduce the unique scent of another animal he's to ignore.

Trailing scents prepare your dog for the hunt by teaching him to identify the smell of the prey. For instance, if you’re teaching him how to hunt by using a dummy bird, you can put some of the trailing scent on the bird to help your dog identify it.

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Gun dogs are smart. Using the right equipment and the right indicators will make your dog unstoppable. High-quality trailing and breaking scents serve as preparation for your dog and will lessen his confusion while hunting. Hunting is safest when your dog is well-trained. A dog who has been taught to fetch one type of prey and return is not at risk for getting distracted and running off, causing trouble for you and possibly putting him in danger.

Breaking Scents for Hunting Dogs - Every Hunter's Favorite Tool
Photo: nugefishes

Not only are trailing scents good for training, they also cut down on the time needed to teach your dog what to hunt. Training is fun and certainly useful, but you and your dog are eager to get out there and start hunting. By using a realistic dummy with the trailing scent of the creature you're hunting, he will more quickly associate the scent with the intended quarry.

Product recommendations

Not surprisingly, breaking scents for hunting dogs have become increasingly popular because of their usefulness, and a big market has opened up for them. There are breaking scents for many animals, but we’ll give you product recommendations for the most common prey: deer, rabbit, fox, and dove and waterfowl. We’ll also make a suggestion about handling the unwanted scent of skunks.

The National Scent Company has been in business since 1928, and they have been helping hunters break their dogs of unwanted trails since then. National Scent Company’s Deer Breaking Scent comes in a 16-ounce bottle. A small amount of this scent on a cloth helps break your dog of the urge to track deer.

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What Are Breaking Scents for Hunting DogsCabela's makes a range of scents, including fox, skunk, and deer. Cabela’s Trail Scent for Rabbit comes in a 4-ounce bottle. Repeated exposure to the rabbit scent will make your dog disinterested in pursuing rabbits. Cabela’s is also useful for breaking your dog of the temptation of fox scent. Cabela’s Fox Breaking Scent for hunting dogs has a strong formula that will effectively discourage his pursuit of them.

If you're looking to break your dog from chasing doves and waterfowl, Dokken’s Dog Training Scent Wax for doves and waterfowl will do the trick. It’s useful for both scent training and trailing, and it’s resilient. Its waxy consistency makes it waterproof (useful when hunting water birds), and it's tough to remove by accident. If your dog is going into the water at some point, the Dokken scents are sure to remain effective.

Another scent to keep in mind is skunk. You don’t want your dog running at a skunk. The smell is difficult to remove, so breaking him of the skunk scent is important. Once again, a National Scent Company product may be the right choice. It's Skunk Breaking Scent, which comes in 2-ounce, 4-ounce, and 16-ounce sizes. This should stop him from chasing skunk trails. Believe me, this will pay off in the future.

Happy hunting!

Dom Naish is a Phoenix-based writer, vegan, cupcake addict and dog lover. Years in the animal rescue trenches have taught him every aspect of dog ownership from behavioral problems, personality and breed specific trait differences of all dogs.