Tracking is a
titling event in which the dog is following a scent left by a person
walking normally through a field.
The dog is in a non-restrictive harness and the handler follows behind
on a 20 ft. line.
For the first
level of a Tracking Dog degree
there are 2 starting flags which gives the handler some
clue as to which the
way the track goes. The track is 440-500 yards long. It may be anywhere
from 30 minutes to 2 hours old and shall have
3 to 5 turns with one article usually a glove at the end that must be
indicated by the dog....meaning the dog either picks
it up or can just stay by it.
The Tracking Dog
Excellent test is much harder. There is only one starting flag, so the
handler hasn't a clue which way
it goes. It is 800 to 1000 yards in length with 5-7 turns and can be
to 5 hours old. The dog must ignore
two sets of cross tracks ..... (these are put in by 2 people walking side
by side. Not the original tracklayer...and cross
the original track twice. These cross tracks are generally 1.5 hours
fresher than the original track). The dog and
handler must also negotiate through 2 obstacles which can mean anything
from crossing a dirt road (which doesn't
hold the scent as well as vegetation) to going through a thickly wooded
forest, to going over a rocky area. The dog
must indicate 4 articles which can be anything from an eyeglass case, a
belt, a coin purse to a child's shoe.
There is a third
Tracking Degree which you can obtain through the American Kennel Club
called a Variable
Surface Tracking Title. It is an even more difficult test that the TDX.
Tracking is a
great sport to start your puppy out in. It is based totally on
motivation. You can motivate the puppy
with food, with toys or with finding a person who will play with them.
Tracking can be started a few days after you
bring your puppy home, as there is no stress involved. In this game the
dog is almost always right. This is Raven
at about 9 weeks of age, who went on to obtain her Tracking Dog Excellent
title at the tender age of 1.5 years old
on a track that was 4.75 hours old.
This *tail* of
TRACKING was originally published in January 1985 for the Obedience
Publication, "Front & Finish"
under the heading of Midwest Tails. The author is myself, Cindy (Strong)
Brick. It tells of the adventures
encountered with my first Tracking Dog.
Since I am
skeptical about physical exercise such as jogging or aerobics, I had put
thoughts of tracking on the
back burner. I recently completed an OTCH on my Terv and since the dog was
still young, I was left with a
desire for more. Well, how about Tracking, I said. I thought we could
give it a try. I had purchased a tracking
harness only 3 years ago and more recently purchased a tracking book.
Since I am also an economical person
and had spent money for equipment, I HAD TO GO TRACKING! FUN! RIGHT!
During the first
week, I discovered how much fun tracking could be. My dog got as far as
day 3 in the
tracking program and remained there for several days. While stuck at day
3, I discovered the great number
of field critters that abound in tracking fields. I should have realized
this was a premonition of things to come.
I found that
trackers must be prepared to face all obstacles and weather....just in
case. What child gets lost on
bright, warm, sunny day? One night my bathroom shower curtain rod took on
an odd look, hanging there wet and
soggy, were my raincoat, gloves, shoes, socks, jeans, tracking harness and
line. Remember, I said, Tracking
is supposed to be fun?
learned with "hands on" experience is definitely a rugged sport- not the
Calvin Klein type of jean
experience. Tracking provides an opportunity to commune with nature, which
I discovered while falling down on
both knees after stepping into a large hole left by some unknown and
unseen creature, (of course, while studiously
trying to read my dog), picking off large wood ticks and brushing a fully
coated dog for 2 hours to remove stick
tight weeds only to find out just before bedtime that I had missed a spot.
Eul Gibbons should have owned a dog.
I am sure he would have had a lot more fun than eating parts of pine
tests are held early in the morning. Wanting to be prepared just in case
we should draw the #1 track,
I tried crawling out of bed at
to see if my dog could mentally and physically function at that time of
It goes without saying that getting up in the middle of the night is
against my religion. The dog did wonderfully;
I was still in my state of morning coma. My neighbors thought I was crazy
to haul jumps all around when
Obedience training. Luckily no one in my neighborhood was alive at that
time of day to see me out with dog
and harness or they would have had me committed.
command their dogs to begin Tracking with words like, "Track, Hunt or
Find." In the beginning
they cue their dog into tracking at the starting flag by pointing to the
ground and telling their dog, "What is this?"
Then immediately after this, they give the command to "Track". Before our
Tracking endeavor we had a
sniffing problem on the Open long sits and downs and to cure this evil
little problem, I set her up in a similar
situation to make the boo-boo right in front of me, by placing food on the
ground. Once remembered, never
forgotten and she proved she was too wise to fall for the same trick
twice. So to overcome our obstacle, we
fell back onto the primary motivator for the doggy household-FOOD!!!!!!!
The old saying of: A way to a man's
heart is through his stomach", holds true with canines. Since our
initial tracking training sessions took place
at dawn, it seemed quite logical to ask her, "Where's breakfast?" So this
became our word for Tracking.
I was advised by
an avid Terv person tracker to have treat at the end of the track that
would make her eyes
bug out in disbelief that it was for her. Such treats included baby pork
rib meat, turkey meatballs, and so on.
During one track she managed to flush 2 grouse. "Just for me?" She
thought I was being extremely generous
that day. She has picked up bad habits from her doggy friends, 90% of
which are Goldens. I hadn't the heart
to tell her that she is not an over toasted Golden. As she was still gazing
off into the sky, I gave her the command,
"Where's breakfast?" She then turned with this quizzical look on her face
like, didn't you see it fly away?
Well back to tracking and shortly down another leg of the track, she
happened upon a mouse and tried her
best to catch, "Her breakfast!" At this point, I am sure she thought-
first it flys away, then it runs away...
aren't you going to let me have either? Such are the trials and
tribulations of tracking and all in the pursuit
of a dirty glove.
Trackers, I have
also noted, must have an excellent memory. We must remember exactly
where the track
and turns are by using the aid of a well landscaped map. Besides the map,
you have to take along a clipboard,
pens (which don't work well when it rains), tracking stakes, and an
article. I figured my friend's dog had a 30%
chance of finding a piece of my clothing - a totally scent impregnated
sock at the end of his track....geez,
I forgot the glove again!!
Tracking can be
as addictive as soap operas....similarly stimulating emotions of joy and
One husband, I spoke with astutely noted that Tracking can produce
manic-depressive behavior at times...
as in Tracking you have limited control and knowledge to regulate your
dog's progress. When I questioned
one tracker upon her 5th TD dog, she is unable to give me any specific
motive for Tracking other than the joy
of it. I have to warn you that one of the symptoms of addiction to
Tracking is feeling a strange surge of thrill
race through your blood, just to have your dog find a smelly sock in the
middle of a vast field, once in a while
my tracklayer also forgot her article. Most trackers I have spoken with
simply account this to just all that
fresh clean air, similar to the motivation of most joggers, but be wary
as it may mean you now have tracking
in your blood. From now on, all that dogs you own will trudge with you
through those fields. I don't know of
too many people who have been able to break the tracking habit once they
have started. So beware...lest you
fall for the same line as I did...Tracking is Fun!
Jetta found her
November 4, 1984
. My grateful thanks to Ellen Hardin who only waited 4 years
to get me to go Tracking with her and staunchly believed in us despite my
reservations. My special
Thanks to Roberta Whitesides, Dave Behrens and Helen Hammel Hittesdorf
whose long distance
suggestions actually worked.
The tracking test that Jetta and I
entered was held during the BIG gun deer hunting session...which is a BIG deal
area. So during this Tracking Test, all the participants had to wear blaze
orange.....so as not to be mistaken for Bambi! The guns were a blazing while we
were out on our track, but she managed to find the glove with out a problem.
Never thought such a benign dog sport could place one in such danger.