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Following A Scent - The Sport of Dog Tracking

By Sam Harris

If you have an energetic dog that loves to smell, this may be the sport for you.
Tracking is a little known competitive and recreational dog activity. It is simple in
design and goal. Your dog must follow a dated human scent trail to find a specific
item. You follow at the end of a maximum length or 20-30' leash. When your dog
reaches the article of clothing (frequently a shoe or glove), he or she marks it.
This means, your dog must sit or lie down by the object. Alternatively, he or she
may retrieve it.

Why Participate?

There are many reasons why you and your dog should participate. At the top of
the list is enjoyment. Tracking is fun.  It is exercise and it can give you a title.
This titular reward is available to any breed of dog. Although the stereotype
“tracker” is a Bloodhound or German Shepherd, your dog does not have to be
either breed. In fact, your dog does not need to be a purebred at all. It can be a
mixed breed. It must, of course, be a mutt with a great nose.

Tracking is physically demanding. It is great exercise for both you and your
canine companion. The 450m track ensures both you and your dog get a good
work out. This is true on both the physical and mental levels of health.

Tracking is a great means of cross-training. It enhances the level of overall fitness
of your dog. It improves their scent skills. Moreover, many of the participants
believe it helps improve their work in the obedience ring.
As for you and your health - tracking reduces stress. It is a great way to work off
excess energy while meeting other like-minded people. You can bond with your
canine companion while you both work together to achieve one common goal.

Equipment

Another benefit to Tracking is the need of only a few pieces of equipment. You
will need a specific harness called a tracking harness. This is the point of
attachment of the leash. The leash needs to be about 15m in length. It can be
made of leather or nylon. What is important is the clip. All leashes must have a
clip on the back.

Training

Training a dog to track can be fairly simple. You start by placing a trail of treats
along a set path. These all lead to the final goal - an article of clothing filled with
treats. You place the dog on the scent and allow -  in fact encourage - your
companion to tug on the leash. Over time, you remove the treats and have the
dog concentrate on the scent.
Begin with training the dog to follow a scent a short distance. Expand it. Over
time, increase the difficulty. Lengthen and alter the terrain. You should also
switch the path from an initial straight course to a more twisted and convoluted
one.

Titles

Unlike many other dog sports, tracking allows you to obtain a title with one clear
run. You are also only judged in terms of pass or fail. If you work hard, you can
earn one or all of three or 5 titles, depending upon the governing body.

- Tracking Dog (TD)
- Tracking Dog Excellent (TDX)
- Urban Tracking Dog (UTD)
- Variable Surface Tracker (VST)
- Champion Tracker (CT)

The step toward each title involves dedication. It can also be very expensive. This
is the down side of competitive Tracking. On the other hand, it is a sport open to
all scent dogs and the people who love them.

Article provided by Sam Harris of
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