Looking for a “job” for your busy dog? Do you like getting outside and enjoy nature? Want to pursue a sport with your dog but not interested in obedience or agility? Try tracking!
What is Tracking?
Tracking is the sport of teaching your dog to follow a scent trail in order to find an article left at the end of it. It is the “game” version of hunting down an escaped prisoner or searching and rescuing lost people. Beginning dogs typically start on short, straight tracks, with distance and direction changes added as the dog becomes more confident. The AKC offers titles to dog who pass tests of different difficulty:
- Tracking Dog (TD)
A dog earns a TD by following a track 440 to 500 yards long with three to five changes of direction. The track is laid by a human tracklayer and is “aged” 30 minutes to two hours before the dog begins scenting. The goal is to use the scented track to locate an article left at the end of the trail by the tracklayer. The owner follows the dog on a long leash and can encourage the dog during the tracking test.
- Tracking Dog Excellent (TDX)
The TDX is earned by following an “older” track (three to five hours) that is also longer (800 to 1,000 yard) and has five to seven directional changes with the additional challenge of human cross tracks.
- Variable Surface Tracking (VST)
In the real world, dogs track through urban settings, as well as through wilderness. A VST dog has demonstrated this ability by following a three- to five-hour-old track that may take him down a street, through a building and other areas devoid of vegetation.
- Champion Tracker (CT)
A dog that has successfully completed all three tracking titles (TD, TDX and VST) earns the prestigious title of Champion Tracker.
How do I get started in tracking?
Sign up for one of our “Tracking for Fun!” seminars, or a private lesson with one of our tracking instructors. Once you’ve covered the basics, you can begin attending our bi-weekly tracking drop-in classes. At the drop-ins, you and your dog will work at whatever level you are at, progressing at your own pace.
What does the “Tracking for Fun!” seminar cover?
- A brief explanation of how the canine nose works
- An explanation of what tracking is
- Demonstration and practice of how to handle the line on a tracking dog
- Demonstration and practice of how to lay a track, both straight legs and turns
- Demonstration and practice of how to run a dog on a track and teach your dog how to follow a track
What do we need to know before taking the seminar?
Dogs must be at least nine months of age, and preferably have completed a basic (pet manners) obedience class before beginning tracking. This is not so much for the skills that you learned but more so I know that your dog can remain focused on you in the presence of other dogs. If you have not completed a class, but your dog can remain focused on you in the presence of other dogs and respond to basic commands, that is okay.
What teaching methods do you use?
All dogs will be worked on a snugly-fitting harness that allows free shoulder movement (no choke chains, prong collars or electronic collars allowed). Teaching methods rely on strengthening your relationship with your dog by gaining his attention through rewards and play.
Will this seminar prepare me and my dog to take the Tracking Dog (TD) test?
No, but “Tracking for Fun” will introduce you to the sport and lay a solid foundation that you can build upon in pursuing this tracking title. Our hope is that the class will get you hooked on tracking enough to continue training in our drop-in tracking classes!
What’s next after taking the seminar?
After you’ve taken the “Tracking for Fun” seminar, you can begin attending our drop-in tracking classes. The drop-in classes are held every other weekend (both Saturday and Sunday) at 10am. In the class, you will practice laying and following tracks with your dog, under the instruction of one of our tracking instructors, working at whatever level you and your dog are at.
Who teaches tracking?
Cathy Cobb, CPDT-KA, co-teaches the tracking seminar. She is the owner, manager, and lead trainer for Austin Dog Sports. Cathy has been a board member and the Training Advisor for Texas German Shorthaired Pointer Rescue since 2005. After teaching group and private basic obedience and CGC classes, she found her first love in the Rally ring. She currently competes with 2 of her adopted GSPs in AKC Rally and Obedience, and tracks for pleasure with 3 of her adopted GSPs. She is a member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers and is an AKC Canine Good Citizen Evaluator.
Inka Wolter co-teaches the seminar, and leads the drop-in classes. Inka spent 4 years at the Lee Mannix Center, both as a dog tutor and until recently teaching agility basics, tracking, air scenting, herding groundwork and tricks. She now spends a good amount of time at PAWS shelter in Kyle. Inka competes regularly in USDAA agility and recently started competing in rally obedience as well, emphasis being on having fun with her dogs! She is also looking forward to working on a freestyle routine with her dog Charlie.
When is the next seminar and how much does it cost?
Our next seminar is Sunday, May 22nd, 2011 from 9am-11am. The seminar costs $50 per working team, or $25 to audit without your dog. Call 512-686-3050 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org to reserve your space and request registration materials. You can now also register online. Space is limited so early registration is recommended!