With a keen sense of smell–100,000 times stronger than humans–dogs are often used to find lost people and animals, drugs, avalanche and disaster victims, and even to detect cancer. AKC Tracking is a canine sport that demonstrates a dog’s natural ability to recognize and follow a scent and is the foundation of canine search and rescue work. Unlike obedience and agility, where dogs respond to the owner’s commands, in tracking a dog is completely in charge, for only he knows how to use his nose to find and follow the track.
Tracking Dog (AKC Title: 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 (AKC Title: 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 (AKC Title: 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 (AKC Title: CT)
A dog that has successfully completed all three tracking titles (TD, TDX and VST) earns the prestigious title of Champion Tracker.
Owners who do tracking with their dogs find joy in seeing the dogs at work using their innate scenting skills. If you and your dog like the outdoors, try tracking!
How to Get Started
Getting started in tracking is easy and you won’t find a more willing participant than your dog! A puppy instinctively uses his nose–training your dog to track simply hones his natural ability. Your first step is finding a tracking class. Many AKC-affiliated clubs offer tracking classes. To find a club in your area, go to the AKC website, Club Search or Training Resources. Tracking requires very little equipment. You just need a harness, a 20-to-40 foot lead, a few flags to mark your track, and an open grassy area free of obstacles such as roads, ditches or woods.
The AKC website includes information on tracking rules & regulations, titles, beginner’s guideand many other resources. In addition, you may search for information on upcoming AKC tracking trials using their Event Search.