First, the titles are not easy to come by. A tracking title reflects many hours of dedicated work in all sorts of weather conditions. It reflects a deep understanding and trust of your dog – your tracking partner.
Tracking also requires a great deal of mental stamina and the ability to remain focused under varying conditions and distractions. This applies to the handler as well as the dog.
You cannot bribe your dog to track, and you cannot force your dog to track. Your relationship with your dog and your ability, through properly structured training, to motivate and inspire your dog to use its incredible natural scenting abilities is what will get you as a team to the end of the track.
A tracking title is something to be very proud of. Tracking titles are not common, and they exemplify the relationship between you and your dog and also exemplify a commitment to persevere when things don’t go well. When you and your dog are out on the test track, all you have is each other, and you must rely on the relationship and understanding you have built through training. You may not command or signal your dog as to direction. You will not know where the track goes and even if you can see parts of it. You may not guide the dog.
Your dog must persevere on the track scent, and you need to be able to read and trust your dog as to which way it goes. To those who have experienced it, there is no greater joy than a well-run track. When you and your dog are truly “in the zone” together, there is nothing else in the world except you, your dog, and the track. You may not remember everything about a rally performance or an agility run, but most trackers can tell you in detail every part of the track.
Tracking tests have no placements. There is no competition. Each exhibitor gets his own unique track plotted by the judges the day before and put out by a club tracklayer the morning of the test. Everyone – the judges, the gallery (spectators), other exhibitors and all the club members who worked so hard to organize and orchestrate the test, wants the teams to pass. Everyone is wishing you the best.
We are very fortunate in Maine to have a total of 12 tracking tests in our state. Want to be a part of this very special community? Check out the tracking events in Maine at AKC.org/event. Get In touch with a club listed on the events and begin to be a part of this wonderful sport.
Also: check out the Downeast Dog News Calendar for future workshops. On Track Agility Club of Maine (OTAC) is holding an indoor tracking workshop (“Let’s Talk Tracking”) on March 4.
See the calendar for details.
Carolyn Fuhrer has earned over 130 AKC titles with her Golden Retrievers, including 4 Champion Tracker titles. Carolyn is the owner of North Star Dog Training School in Somerville, Maine. She has been teaching people to understand their dogs for over 25 years. She is also an AKC Tracking Judge. You can contact her with questions, suggestions, and ideas for her column by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org. www.facebook.com/NorthStarDogTraining