Your dog’s keen sense of smell is 100,000 times stronger than humans making them ideal for the sport of Tracking. These skills are put to incredible use for emergency search-and-rescue.

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.

You can then decide if you want to test his abilities in a Tracking Dog Test (TD). It’s a non-competitive test in which your dog follows a path to find article(s) dropped along the way. There’s no time limit as long as your dog is “working.”

Tracking titles can be obtained through several organizations, including the Australian Shepherd Club of America (ASCA) and the American Mixed Breed Obedience Registration (AMBOR), but most follow the AKC test rules.  Dogs must be at least six months of age to enter an AKC tracking test. A dog either passes or fails a tracking test; in contrast, many other dog sports are scored, with points awarded or deducted. The dog is tested on his ability to follow a track and “indicate” that he has found the article along the track. The article is usually a glove or wallet. Advanced test levels involve longer tracks, tracks that have “aged” longer, and those that have more difficult terrain and include turns in direction.

The following are brief descriptions of the AKC tracking titles. A single “pass” earns a title.

  • Tracking Dog (TD). The track is 440 to 500 yards long with 3 to 5 turns and has been “aged” for 30 minutes to two hours. The dog must “indicate” the article found. Tracks are laid in open fields with uniform cover and do not include changing terrain, roads, ditches, etc.
  • Tracking Dog Excellent (TDX). The track is 800 to 1,000 yards long with 5 to 7 turns and has been aged for 3 to 5 hours. There are two sets of “cross tracks” that are diversionary only and should not be followed by the dog. The terrain is more difficult, and the dog must indicate his find of four dissimilar articles along the track.
  • Variable Surface Tracking (VST). The track is 600 to 800 yards long with 4-8 turns and has been aged for 3 to 5 hours. The articles used must include one each of leather, cloth, plastic, and metal. The terrain must be comprised of three different surfaces and include a change of direction on one without vegetation, such as concrete. This more accurately tests a dog’s ability to track in an urban environment.
  • Champion Tracker (CT). This title is awarded to dogs who have passed all three tracking tests. An annual Tracking Invitational is open only to dogs who have their CTs. According to the AKC, only 50 dogs have passed the VST, and only 44 have their CTs.

To find out more see AKC Tracking