What is the Canine Sport of Scent Tracking? Can my dog do it?
Any dog no matter age can learn to follow a scent trail and compete in tracking or just do it for fun. The sport of tracking is growing and here is why. Your dog has a nose, he can track. Basically tracking comes naturally to our dogs. It is a great way to build good relationships, confidence with a sport that you will challenge you both mentally and physically. The reason tracking is such a great sport is tracking is fun, any age dog can be taught to track, improves fitness for both and will mentally stimulate you and your dog. All dogs need something to do. Put their powerful noses to use as a dog possess up to 300 million olfactory receptors in their noses, compared to about six million in us. Tracking is a sport in which a dog follows the scent of a person who has walked through the area earlier. The dog must follow the scent trail left by the walking person, and identify an article or articles which the person has dropped along the way. The teamwork involved in following a dog on a track is an experience that if you love dogs you should have. Nose work is different from tracking as noswork teaches the dog scent detection sniffing out scents likes birch, anise and close and is portable and tracking teaches the dog to follow a scent trail laid down by a person.
Tracking uses your dog’s ability to smell a human scent over different terrain. Our dogs know how to track so our training will teach then what to track and when to track. It is fun to connect with your dog with tracking as to humans the track is invisible, however in order to do tracking with your dog you have to act as if you can see the track. This gives the dog confidence. You will be taught how to line up two points and using the markers on the ground like rocks, plants, and branches etc. The handler is taking his or her cues based on the dog’s signals vs. the dog taking directions based on a series of commands from the handler
AKC offers many levels to compete in which gives the handler goals. These Tracking events provide training for dogs and their handlers to meet some human needs for tracking and finding lost humans or other animals, as well as, demonstrating the extremely high level of scent capability that dogs possess.
We’ve all seen movies with dogs following the trail of an escapee through swamps. The AKC’s Tracking Tests allow dogs to demonstrate their natural ability to recognize and follow human scent. This vigorous outdoor activity is great for canine athletes. Unlike Agility and Obedience events that require a dog to qualify three times, a dog only needs to complete one track successfully to earn each title. As per AKC website. “AKC Tracking is a canine sport that demonstrates a dog’s natural ability to recognize and follow a scent and is the foundation of canine search and rescue work. Unlike obedience and agility trials, where dogs respond to the owner’s commands, in tracking a dog is completely in charge, for only he knows how to use his nose to find and follow the track.”
The following are brief descriptions of the AKC tracking titles. A single “pass” earns a title. The Dog Tracking Sport is fun and very rewarding.
- Tracking Dog (TD). The track is 440 to 500 yards long with 3 to 5 turns and has been “aged” for 30 minutes to two hours. The dog must “indicate” the article found. Tracks are laid in open fields with uniform cover and do not include changing terrain, roads, ditches, etc.
- Tracking Dog Excellent (TDX). The track is 800 to 1,000 yards long with 5 to 7 turns and has been aged for 3 to 5 hours. There are two sets of “cross tracks” that are diversionary only and should not be followed by the dog. The terrain is more difficult, and the dog must indicate his find of four dissimilar articles along the track.
- Variable Surface Tracking (VST). The track is 600 to 800 yards long with 4-8 turns and has been aged for 3 to 5 hours. The articles used must include one each of leather, cloth, plastic, and metal. The terrain must be comprised of three different surfaces and include a change of direction on one without vegetation, such as concrete. This more accurately tests a dog’s ability to track in an urban environment.
- Champion Tracker (CT). This title is awarded to dogs who have passed all three tracking tests. An annual Tracking Invitational is open only to dogs who have their CTs. According to the AKC, only 50 dogs have passed the VST, and only 44 have their CTs.
Before entering an AKC tracking test, a dog must be “certified” by an AKC tracking judge. Tracking tests require a lot of work on the part of many people (judges and tracklayers). Due to this, and to the time-intensive nature of each test, the number of entries is limited. The certification process ensures that a dog is truly ready for a real tracking test so that the entries go to people who have done the necessary preparation. Train with a pro. Up Front Dog Center has one of the best Tracking Trainers- Teryl Lebkuecher