Why Tracking?

by Susan Stanley

AKC Tracking

Tracking is a sport in which dogs are taught to recognize and follow the sent of a human being. In AKC tracking tests the tracklayer walks a pre-determined course at a normal pace and drops personal article(s) at designated place(s) along the way. Tracking is a cooperative, not a competitive, sport and the nationwide community of trackers is known for its camaraderie. The America Kennel Club offers three tracking titles earned by a single pass of the corresponding tracking test, the title Champion Tracker (CT) is awarded to dogs which have passed all three of these tests. To earn the Tracking Dog (TD) title, the lowest level title, the dog and handler much successfully follow an unmarked track of 440 to 500 years, created by a person walking in a grassy field 30 to 120 minutes earlier. For both the Tracking Dog Excellent (TDX) title and the Variable Surface Tracking (VST) title, the tracks are longer, more complex and include cross tracks laid by other persons. Test tracks for these last two titles must be aged from 3 hours to 5 hours before the dog begins to follow them.

The TDX track is laid in field with variable cover and terrain. The dog and handler may need to ford streams, cross roads, gullies, plowed fields, rocks or fire-scorched earth in order to complete the track successfully.Each team must find 3 articles left by the tracklayer along the track as prescribed by the judges when they plot the tracks prior to the test.The team must also negotiate 2 sets of cross tracks laid by 2 persons walking in a prescribed manner to cross the track about an hour and a half after the primary tracklayer laid the track. There may also be casual cross tracks laid by animals or persons not involved with the test, hikers, riders, cyclists or dog walkers on the test site. The track is from 800 to 1000 yards in length and can be quite physically and mentally challenging for the dog and handler. AKC introduced the Variable Surface Tracking Test in 1995 to provide an even greater challenge to trackers who must learn how scent behaves around buildings, landscaping and through parking lots under different climatic conditions. A further reason for development of this test was to offer an advanced test, which did not require the human physical agility, needed for most TDX tracks, thus it is available to senior and/or disabled handlers and their dogs.

The Variable Surface track is from 600 to 800 years in length and must include a minimum of 3 different surfaces such as packed dirt, asphalt, and mowed lawn. Tall field grasses, gravel, concrete, wood chips and brick patios are also possible surfaces one might find on a test track. As with the TDX track, the tracking team must find 3 articles on the track. Due to the urban sites, there arte generally many unknown cross tracks to be negotiated and frequently people, dogs, cats and moving vehicles are encountered along the way. Concentration on the job and the ability to recover quickly from distractions are among the skills the variable surface tracking dog must learn.

Corgis as Trackers

Pembroke Welsh Corgis generally make excellent tracking dogs. Being naturally curious and low to the ground, they easily put their noses to the track and follow the scent once instructed on the desired behavior. Also they tend to be focused dogs who concentrate on the task at hand or return to it readily after a distraction.

Tracking is a sport that Corgis may enjoy at almost any age.They easily take to an activity in which they are permitted to lead a human around by their noses and in which training is almost always positive. Since only accuracy, not speed, is required in this sport, senior dogs have earned tracking titles and have continued to track for fun and exercise long after they have earned their last title. Puppies as young as 4 months, or as soon as their immunizations are completed, frequently track with great enthusiasm. Should you track a young puppy, please remember to keep tracks short, within the puppy's physical capacities and attention span.

For the handler, the benefits of training a dog to track include an enhanced relationship with your dog, a chance to observe and learn how you dog solves scenting problems, and the outdoor exercise provided while having fun. Frequently, tracking takes you to magnificent scenery too!

While some successful tracking teams have taught themselves the sport from one of several food tracking manuals now accessible, it is helpful to begin with a seriesof tracking classes if they are available in your area. A local obedience club may be able to direct you a tracking class or group.If classes aren't readily available,. see if you can find an experienced tracker who may help you get started in exchange for laying tracks for his or her dog.

For further information about tracking, you might try these websites:

American Kennel Club

Southwest Tracking Association

Two books for beginning trackers that I have found useful are:

Enthusiastic Tracking (2nd Edition) by William (Sil) Sanders, Rime Publications, Stanwood, Washington, 1998.

Tracking from the Ground Up (Revised Edition) by Sandy Ganz and Susan Boyd, Show-Me Publications, St. Louis, MO 1992

This article was originally printed in the 1999 GGPWCF Corgi Tracks Annual, and is reprinted with permission of the Author, Susan Stanley, All Rights Reserved. This article may not be reproduced in whole or part by any means without permission of the Author, Susan Stanley, sestanley@juno.com