AKC Tracking Information

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Learning About Tracking Events 

Tracking events are competitions based on simulated search and rescue operations performed by dogs. These events provide a great opportunity for dogs and handlers to demonstrate the high degree of scenting ability that dogs have, while actually training for the very practical purpose of finding lost human beings.

Tracking is an outdoor activity that can be both challenging and rewarding. Tests allow dogs to demonstrate their inborn ability to discriminate and follow a unique scent. Although Agility and Obedience events require three qualifying scores to earn a title, in the case of tracking a dog needs to successfully complete only one track to earn a title at each level. A brief description of the requirements for each title is given below:

Tracking Dog (TD)
The first level title is earned by following a track 440 to 500 yards long with at least three and no more than five changes of direction. The track is laid by a human known as a tracklayer and the track should be "aged" at least 30 minutes and up to two hours before the dog begins the scenting exercise. The objective is for the dog to follow the scented track and locate an article left by the tracklayer at the end. The handler uses a long leash and follows behind the dog. Handlers can and usually do verbally encourage their dogs during the test.

Tracking Dog Excellent (TDX)

The TDX is similar to and builds on the TD. At this level, dogs follow an older track (one that has “aged” three to five hours) and that is longer (800 to 1,000 yards) This track has five to seven changes of direction and adds the challenge of human cross tracks with the potential to confuse the dog following scent.

Variable Surface Tracking (VST)
In actual tracking situations, dogs not only track through wilderness areas but are often used to locate missing persons in urban or suburban settings. A VST level dog must demonstrate the ability to track within a population center by following a three-to five-hour-old track that may take him down a street without vegetation and perhaps even through a building or similar areas that differ significantly from typical natural landscapes.

Champion Tracker (CT)

A dog that has successfully completed all three of the above tracking titles (TD, TDX and VST) will earn the Champion Tracker title which is a very difficult but rewarding accomplishment and one of which the dog’s handler can be rightfully proud!

Owners who engage in tracking activities with their dogs nearly always cite the joy and fulfillment they feel from watching their dogs at work using their innate scenting skills. Tracking can be an excellent choice of dog sport for people who enjoy the outdoors and who love the thrill of teamwork with their dogs.

A list of clubs approved to hold Tracking tests can be found in the club search section of the AKC website. http://www.akc.org

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