With a keen sense of smell – 100,000 times stronger than humans – dogs are often used to find lost people and animals, drugs, avalanche and disaster victims, and even to detect cancer. AKC Tracking is a canine sport that demonstrates a dog’s natural ability to recognize and follow a scent and is the foundation of canine search and rescue work. Unlike obedience and agility trials, where dogs respond to the owner’s commands, in tracking a dog is completely in charge, for only he knows how to use his nose to find and follow the track. For many, the greatest pleasure of tracking is the hours spent outside training and interacting with their dogs. The tracking community is known for its camaraderie, and they all share in the excitement of a “pass” and the disappointment of a “fail.

How Do I Get Started in Tracking?

Getting started in tracking is easy, and you won’t find a more willing participant! A puppy instinctively uses his nose – training your dog to track simply hones his natural ability. And since all dogs have a natural ability to follow a scent, any breed is capable of learning to track. First, find a tracking class. Many AKC-affiliated clubs offer tracking classes and some are “Tracking only” clubs. To find a club in your area, go to the AKC website, Club Search or Training Resources. 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. There are some great reference books that provide step-by-step instruction to help you train your dog for tracking. Many of the people who have followed these educational programs have gone on to earn tracking titles.

Tracking may very well be the most difficult and the most rewarding activity that you can do with your GSP. It requires developing patience and trust in your dog, and builds a tremendous bond between the dog and handler. There are three titles that can be earned in tracking that are added to the end of the dog’s name. Tracking Dog (TD), tracking Dog Excellent (TDX), and the variable Surface Tracking Dog (VST). If a dog earns all three titles, then the coveted Champion Tracker (CT) title is put at the front of the dog’s name replacing those tracking titles at the end of the name. Few dogs of any breed ever earn the CT title. Only two GSP’s to date have earned the Champion Tracker title by passing all three Tracking tests.

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