Tracking is a sporting event, which turns your four legged friend into a super sleuth, by tapping into his natural ability to follow a scent trail. Tracking takes take Hide and Seek a step further, and your dog now has to find strategically placed scented items, like a wallet, a scarf and hats. Tracking is a mental challenge, which keeps your dogs mind sharp and alert.
The Ins and Outs of Tracking
Tracking tests usually take place outdoors, and the course may be spread over a natural surface, such as a field of grass or over a variable surface, such as a combination of gravel, concrete, dirt and grass.
Tracking isn’t an easy sport to master and there are plenty of distractions to lead dogs astray. Furry or feathered critters or yummy-smelling food fragrances often conspire to derail even the most talented of trackers. Despite the obstacles, your energetic sporting breed can make an excellent tracking dog, especially if she is smart and willing to practice. A sharp nose, keen intelligence and the willingness to practice, practice, and more practice are the key characteristics of an ace tracking dog.
Tracking is a skill best learned from a professional. To get started, look for a professional trainer who trains and competes in AKC tracking events. Your local phone directory is the best place to begin your search. Most reputable trainers are listed under “dog training.” Contacting trainers who specialize in obedience are best bets. Many obedience training facilities also offer tracking training.
Competition Basics – Ready, Set, Sniff!
To compete in an AKC tracking event you must first arrange to have your dog certified by a tracking judge. The judge or a tracklayer, a person chosen by the judge, will mark out a Tracking Dog (TD)-level (most basic) scent trail. If your dog successfully follows the track under the watchful gaze of the judge, you’ll receive four tracking certificates, which are viable for one year.
The next step, find a real tracking test and sign up, including one of your certificates with your entry form. The TD-level test, requires your dog to follow a 440 to 500-foot-long track with 3 to 5 turns that has aged 30 minutes to two hours. Successful completion of the test means your dog clearly indicated or retrieved the scented item at the end of the trail.
Handlers or owners may not yank, pull or otherwise indicate where the trail or scented items are along the track. Owners may, however, offer verbal praise and commands. Two judges pass or fail the dog based upon two criteria: 1.) how well the dog follows the track, and 2.) whether he actually finds the scented article. A dog can earn its first title after passing only one test, or “leg.”
To earn a Tracking Dog Excellent (TDX) title, your dog must follow an 800 to 1,000-foot-long track that has been aged 3 to 5 hours and has 5 to 7 directional changes. This task is made even more challenging because other human scents cross the true track.
Variable Surface Tracking (VST) tests are the most difficult. Your dog must follow a three to five-hour-old track over a minimum of three different surfaces, including two that have no vegetation, such as sand, gravel or concrete. The Champion Tracker (CT) title goes to the dog, who has earned all of these tracking titles.
Tracking is a sport, which keeps your dog mental fit and stimulated. It is akin to you doing the crossword puzzle or other brain teaser games.