Train Your Dog in the Sport of Canine Tracking
Canine tracking is a sport where the dog is the star and the handler takes a back seat to the activity. Trusting your dog’s ability to do what it was naturally bred for is sometimes difficult for the handler, but can be accomplished by proper training. Sanctioned canine tracking events involve tracking an item that’s been laid on a trail by a tracklayer. To be deemed “Track Dog” a dog must follow a track of 440 to 500 yards. The track must have three to five changes in direction. The trail has been aged thirty minutes to two hours by the tracklayer. The next level of competition canine tracking is “Tracking Dog Excellent.” The trail is older, three to five hours and the trail is longer, 800 to 1000 yards with additional changes in direction. The next step up in competition is “Variable Surface Tracking.” In the sport of canine tracking, the dog will simulate tracking in urban and wilderness settings by tracking an older track of three to five hours down a street, in a building, and in areas without vegetation. When a dog has completed all levels of the canine tracking competition she has earned the title “Tracking Champion.”
Fun Fact -It’s estimated that a dog’s nose is between 1,000 to 10,000 better than humans.
Training Your Dog
Training your dog to track should begin when the dog is a puppy. Puppies are literal “sponges” when it comes to absorbing information; however, an older dog can be trained in the sport as well. Start the canine tracking training with a few games. All dogs love games! Hide and seek is the perfect game to play with your dog to familiarize it with tracking. Have someone hold the dog while you move away from the dog. Talk to your dog excitedly while moving away from it. Your dog will be eager to get free and follow you. Once you have hidden yourself away behind a couch or door, have the person holding the dog release it while you say “Come find me”. The dog will follow the direction you went in first. Upon finding you, greet the dog enthusiastically with “good find” and perhaps the reward of a favorite toy.
Fun Fact – A dog’s slimy wet nose helps him smell. The mucus pre-sorts the smells to give him a “scent picture”.
Transitioning From Canine Tracking Games to Real Competition
Transitioning your dog from games to real canine tracking is a relatively simple task. Many dogs will track a short distance for a toy but you may have to move to food as an incentive for a longer track. The games you played previously with your dog have taught your dog to use its nose to find you, now the food items will continue that behavior. You will also need two items the dog is tracking, both with the same smell. One is used at the beginning of the canine track and the other is the goal. Start the same way you did with hide and seek. Excite the dog, hide the item, and begin. Start with short distances and move up to longer ones. Once the dog has the idea of the track down, add turns and different terrains.
Fun Fact – A dog’s nose is like a person’s fingerprint. Each dog’s nose has a unique nose print in which to identify the dog
Learn More About Canine Tracking
As with many dog sporting competitions such as canine tracking, there are numerous resources on-line to check to get started. The American Kennel Association is a good place to start.