Tracking

Tracking

 

Tracking is an exciting dog sport for all dogs, big and small – not just the traditional tracking breeds such as German Shepherds, Labradors and Bloodhounds.

 

At Frankston Dog Obedience Club we have a very happy, friendly and active group of trackers with dogs of all shapes and sizes, from tiny Terriers to huge Great Danes. The emphasis is on fun and learning… and gaining your ANKC (Australian National Kennel Council) titles at tracking trials.

There are seven regular ANKC tracking tests in all. Successfully completed, Tests One, Two and Three give a dog their T.D. (Tracking Dog) title. Tests Four, Five and Six give the title of T.D.X (Tracking Dog Excellent). The seventh test gives the title of T.Ch (Tracking Champion). Dogs can then go on and take part in the new Track and Search Dog trials and gain titles in this sport too – T.S.D and T.S.D.X.

At a tracking trial, dogs are asked to use their nose to sniff out and follow the footsteps of a ‘tracklayer’ – a person who has walked a carefully laid out track marked with flags beforehand – and find that tracklayer. Flags are removed as the tracklayer walks the track, so the handler cannot tell where the track goes and it is up to the dog to ‘find their man’.

Articles are also left on the tracks by the tracklayer. They are placed at the start of each track and along the track itself. The dog then ‘takes the scent’ from the start article and follows along, locating and identifying the tracklayer’s articles on the track as it goes, and indicating their find. Socks are the article of choice in regular tracking trials. Later, in Track and Search trials, mobile phones, sunglass cases, wallets, soft toys and all sorts of odds and ends are used.

As dogs progress through their tracking tests, the tracks become longer and the times between a tracklayer walking the track and the dog coming to find them also lengthen. At Test One level, the tracklayer walks out a minimum of 20 minutes before the dog comes to find them, along a track that is 400 metres long with one article belonging to the tracklayer left on the track that the dog may find. There are a minimum of two turns the dog must negotiate in Test One. At Test Seven level, the tracklayer walks out a minimum of 90 minutes beforehand, there are a minimum of six turns and there are three articles on the track, two of which must be found by the dog in order to pass the test. Test are graded from Pass, Good, Very Good and Excellent, depending on the dog’s performance.

Tracking trials are held in country areas where large tracts of land are often kindly made available by farmers over the weekends when trials take place. Intrepid trackers arrive early in the mornings during winter to take part in their chosen sport. There is much fun and camaraderie to be had at trials, with the same venues being used year after year. Trackers often camp nearby, or at the venues themselves, staying for whole weekends to help out. The Tracking community is a small one and everyone is made welcome.

The tracking season runs throughout late autumn, winter and early spring, when the danger of snakes is minimal. However, Frankston’s tracking group continues to practice during most months of the year on safe, short grassed ovals and parks.

Tracking at Frankston Dog Obedience Club is taught using methods drawn from both the very precise International dogsport of Schutzhund/IPO (placing food in footsteps to teach the dog it is enjoyable to stay within the scent path) and the method used often to train police dogs (the ‘come find me’ method where dogs learn first to find their owners at the end of a short track.) The appropriate method is used for each dog and handler and the method is tailored to fit the Australian National Kennel Council style of tracking, which could be described as ‘loose man trailing’.

Frankston’s group was formed in late 2009 and dogs and handlers took part in our first season in 2010. It has grown from three dog/handler teams to almost twenty. We can boast a number of titles already, including two Tracking Champions! The group now has a limited number of places available only, due to its size and the need for open areas to track in the surrounding suburbs. Those wishing to take part must make a commitment to also practice outside of training days at least twice a week, in order to teach their dogs effectively. If you think you might be interested in tracking, see Melanie or John to learn more.

Heather Hammonds