Tidewater Tracking Club of Virginia
1. What is tracking?
Tracking is the use of a dog’s powerful sense of smell to detect and follow a path of human scent on the
ground. Search and rescue work, as well as police detection work is also based upon a dog’s incredible
sense of smell.
2. What type of dog do I need to track?
Any dog can track! While some breeds have “specialized equipment” that is useful for tracking (such as the
long ears and folds on a bloodhound’s face - called flews - which help to funnel the scent towards the dog’s
nose) , all dogs have a natural ability and desire to use their sense of smell. In fact, a dog’s sense of smell is
100,000 times greater than a human’s - they rely on their nose in much the same way as humans rely on our
eyes and sense of sight. Within our club, and within the tracking world, many breeds - from toys to mastiffs,
and everything in between - are represented.
3. What age should my dog be to begin training?
Puppies can begin training as early as four months of age – and can also begin as an older dog! Dogs
should be allowed to advance in a natural manner, and not be pushed too hard, especially as pups. Tracking
should be an enjoyable time for dogs of any age, and should involve plenty of praise and motivation.
4. What equipment do I need to track?
If possible, it is best to attend a tracking practice, or talk to experienced handlers and inquire about
equipment, or even better, to try out different materials to see what feels like a good “fit” before purchasing
equipment. To begin AKC tracking, handlers will need the following equipment:
Tracking Equipment Checklist
a) tracking harness
b) long line (20-40 feet)
c) gloves to protect hands from the constant pull of the line
d) collar for before and after the track
e) flags to mark the track – orange surveying flags work well
f) scent articles to be laid on the track – gloves, socks, bandanas, cheap wallets or any other inexpensive,
portable, dog-safe and easily replaceable (these do occasionally get lost) items will work well
g) suitable, comfortable clothing and footwear for the terrain being tracked on, as well as weather conditions -
h) dog crate - if tracking with a club, group, class, etc., or at a trial, there is a strong possibility that the dog will
need to be safely contained away from the handler – a crate is the safest solution to manage this.
i) water and bowl to refresh the dog while it is working the track, and before and after
j) reward items (for training only) – treats, toys and play work well! Many popular methods of training involve
treats being laid on the track as well. If you choose to use food as part of your training, be sure to have plenty
of treats available (such as pre-sliced hot dog)
l) possibly sunscreen and insect repellant
5. What are some of the benefits of AKC tracking?
a) Exercise! Tracking is a great way for handlers and dogs alike to get exercise in a very natural way.
Because it is low-impact (unlike agility or some components of obedience), it is a suitable activity for many
dogs and handlers.
b) Nature! Tracking is one of the few dog sports that is done almost entirely outdoors. While most tracking is
done in rural type areas, urban tracking is quickly gaining popularity. Cross-training in many different
environments is fun, challenging and an excellent opportunity to build new skills.
c) Camaraderie! Tracking is unique amongst the companion events, in that it is pass/fail in the trials, and
competitors compete only against themselves. People in tracking clubs and at trials are generally close and
supportive of one another, sharing joys, ideas, laughs, discoveries and frustrations with each other out in the
d) The adventurer and scout in all of us gets to come out! Map drawing, understanding the conditions of
nature, discovering new territory and overcoming obstacles are all part of the tracking experience.
e) Power to the dog! Tracking relies completely upon a dog’s nose. It is the handler’s job to learn to trust
their dog, and provide him the confidence he needs to get the job done.
6. Are physically challenged handlers able to track?
Yes! So long as accommodations don’t offer the dog any kind of advantage, and as long as the handler is
able to navigate the terrain (with or without accommodations), physically challenged handlers are welcome in
the world of tracking.
7. What levels of tracking competition does AKC offer?
There are currently 5 different tracking titles which handlers are able to work towards:
TD – Tracking Dog and/or
TDU – Tracking Dog Urban
TDX – Tracking Dog Excellent and/or
VST – Variable Surface Tracking
CT – Champion Tracker – given to dogs who earn TD or TDU, along with TDX and VST
Due to limited tests slots, before entering a TD test, an AKC tracking judge must certify that the dog is
trained, and capable of attaining a TD. This is done by the judge laying a TD track, and the dog successfully
8. Is my dog eligible to compete in AKC tracking events?
Purebred dogs that are registered with the AKC may enter. Purebred dogs that are recorded with the FSS
(Foundation Stock Service) may enter. Spayed/neutered purebred dogs with an ILP number or Limited
Registration number may enter. Dogs must be six months of age or older before entering a tracking trial.
9. How do I get started?
There are many books and websites devoted to the sport of tracking. These are a great supplement to
training with a club or taking a class – and will help to familiarize the handler with terms and theories. There is
no substitute for actual observation and practice out in the field, however! Check out the AKC website to find
a club near you!
AKC Beginner's Guide to Tracking