There are numerous dog
activities and sports today, many developed from the work that humans and dogs did
together. Here is an article by Steve Schuh
that provides a helpful introduction to tracking with dogs.
Getting Started in the Dog Sport of
Tracking is a vigorous non-competitive
outdoor sport where dog and owner can both enjoy the dogs natural love for following
a scent. Imagine setting-out on a sunny spring day for a walk in the
woods and 500 yards down the path your pet locates an exciting treasure; perhaps a glove,
sock or wallet to his delight and yours.
|The dogs sense of
smell is 100,000 times greater than humans and is used to locate humans, other animals,
illegal drugs, explosives, avalanche and disaster victims and even cancer.
Any breed will enthusiastically use its nose to
track. You can start early since a puppy 7 weeks old has the ability to track.
The American Kennel Club tests dogs and awards four
levels of achievement.
Theory & Methods
These four levels are:
|· Tracking Dog
· Tracking Dog Excellence
|· Variable Surface
· Champion Tracker.
In the tracking
section of the AKC Web site, you can download a helpful guide, A
Beginner's Guide to Tracking.
This site also offers a special Kids/Juniors
section with some great information on the many exciting opportunities for kids and dogs.
Youll want to check out Juniors in Companion Events on the
Kids/Juniors homepage for information on tracking events and a host of
sporting activities for kids and pooches.
The Sport of Tracking
Tracking is judged, not with a point system, but on a pass/fail
basis. Judges lay out a track during an AKC test. Four personal articles (a glove, a sock
or the like) are used for the dog to locate along the track. The judges
observe the dog -- that is kept on the lead at all times --
to see how closely he sticks to the track as he locates and indicates
each of the articles.
|Here are some terms that are used in the sport of
items that the dog must find
· leg: straight portion
of track between turns
· harness: lead
· turns: an
abrupt change of direction of the
track not less than 90 degrees
· obstacles: roads,
streams, ditches, logs etc.
· track: the actual
path the tracklayer walked
scent or track scent: what a dog
that allows him to follow a track, made up
of the odor of crushed vegetation, over-
turned earth and the odor left by a person
indication: change in
when he experiences loss or discovery of
article or track
to Track, Search
Getting Started in Tracking
Its easy to get started with
tracking. Youll find your dog to be an enthusiastic participant. In
the wild, he used scent to find mates and food, so this activity is near and dear to his
heart. His ancestors have been working with man in this way for many millennia. You will
need only a harness and a 20 30 foot lead, some open area of grass or dirt-
and your ready to get go.
Interest the dog in a tracking article
by playing with it like a toy. You can use a glove or a sock loaded with food treats. Have
someone hold the dogs lead and walk away with the article talking and waving the
article to keep his interest. Drop the article about 15 feet away and walk straight back
to him. Trample the area around the article a bit. Now, you take the lead and tell the dog
to track. Most likely, the dog will make a beeline for the article and revel in food and
play when he gets to it.
Repeat this exercise each time
increasing the distance between the dog and the article. Also, make sure that the track,
or some portion of it, is walked out of site of the dog. The dog is learning to follow
your scent, not the scent of the treat. Make sure the treat is small.
As you walk, the scent particles drop
off of you and onto the ground. Likewise, your footsteps disturb the ground and your
dogs keen sense of smell allows him to detect a different order from disturbed
ground. This is why you trample the area around the article (sock with treat or such) in
the beginning exercise. Vegetation has the ability to hold a scent for a long time.
If the dog takes his nose
from the ground, stop and tell him to get back to work with a track command.
You want the dog to get the scent from deep in the ground as trackers do. You dont
want him to get the scent from the air; your food treat will leave scent particle wafting
in the air. Remember the dog should be following your scent and not the treats.
Strategies to Enhance Training
Try these simple activities on
a rainy day or when you want to have a little playtime with your pal. These scent work
games are recommended to use, even with puppies:
WHICH HAND? Hide a treat or a toy in one hand
and present both hand s closed to the dog. Ask, which one. Try to teach him to tap the
correct hand with his paw. If he gets it, he gets the treat, or a toy and some playtime.
If not, he has to try again.
LIGHTS OUT: Dogs love this. Show your dog a treat
or his favorite toy, and then place it out of his sight but easily accessible in a dark
room. Then give him your tracking command such as "track", "seek" or
"find". Follow him into the dark room and reward him with praise for a find.
Sure, he loves the treats he finds but a happy handler is a heartfelt reward too.
HIDE & SEEK: This is a doggy favorite. Hide in
partially open closets (closed closets may not allow sufficient scent to escape), shower
stalls/tubs with the curtain drawn, standing behind an open door, crouching behind a bush,
standing very still near a tree, or wherever! Youll find your buddy is a top-notch
competitor at this game.
For more details on getting started
with tracking, visit these websites:
· Tracking at the AKC
· The Tracking Page,
a Web site dedicated to the sport
· Tracking Dog Training
· Tracking plus Sniffer
Dog and Nose Games at DogPlay.com
· Scent Games
· Scent Tracking
Instinct Test and more
|These are several
excellent books on the subject of tracking. These include:
from the Ground Up by
Sandy Ganz and Susan Boyd An easy-to-use resource, perfect for beginners. (Show-Me
Practical Tracking for
Practically Everyone, by Julie Hogan and Donna Thompson. Another good how-to
manual from authors with a combined total of 70 tracking titles. This book and a wealth of
information for beginners can be found at here.
the Ground Up
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Steve Schuh is a retired Employee Benefits manager
and the author of various articles in that field. Today, he lives with his wife and their
new Labrador-mix pup, Mr. Beans, in New York City. There, he follows and chronicles the
adventures of Mr. Beans who is now exploring the world with canine enthusiasm. You can
reach him about dog writing via email here.