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Tracking

 

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CH Diamond Aire Teal Bluewings, CD, TD owned by Nan Cochrane of Riversong

 

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CH Diamond Aire Teal Bluewings, CD,TD tracking in forest with owner Nan Cochrane
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Eloradanan Propwash "Shelby" HT,NA,CGC,TDI owned by Lisa Pattison belong to the Garden State ASC

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Eloradanan Propwash Shelby

A special thanks to Nan Cochrane (pictured above) for the following tracking information. Nan is also tracking editor for the Australian Shepherd Journal.

Tracking is a vigorous, all-weather sport in which a dog and handler team follows the path of a single person by scent alone. The AKC offers three titles: Tracking Dog (TD), Tracking Dog Excellent (TDX), and Variable Surface Tracking (VST). Any dog earning all three earns the title of Champion Tracker (CT). All tests are pass/fail, and the dog must pass each test only once to gain a title.

The TD tests basic tracking skills in moderate terrain. Given the direction of the first leg, the dog must successfully follow a track relatively fresh track 450 to 500 yards long with 3 to 5 abrupt turns. The dog must indicate the location of an article dropped at the end of the track by the tracklayer. A TD title is a prerequisite for TDX and VST.

At 800 to 1000 yards the TDX is roughly twice the length of the TD, and typically incorporates much more challenging terrain. The TDX is aged 3 to 5 hours before it is run. With the aid an article left by the tracklayer at the start the dog must determine the direction of the first leg, discriminate between track scent and conflicting cross-tracks, and overcome obstacles—either physical or scenting—in order to succeed. The dog must also negotiate 5 to 7 turns and indicate 3 additional articles along the track to the handler.

The VST tests the dog’s ability and drive to work out scenting problems presented by urban settings—and the handler’s ability to take subtle cues from the dog. No physical obstacles are allowed, but scent obstacles in the form of buildings, landscaping, and pedestrian and automobile traffic are key elements. The VST track is 600 to 800 yards in length over vegetated and non-vegetated surfaces, with at least one turn on a non-vegetated surface. Like the TDX, the VST is aged 3 to five hours and, given the aid of an article placed at the start the dog must determine the direction of the first leg. Four articles are incorporated in this test, one each of cloth, leather, plastic and metal.

Australian Shepherds are double-coated all-weather dogs, bred to sustain a measured pace for long periods of time. High prey drive and exceptional agility make this breed as valuable in the tracking field as it is in working stock. Their vigor and enthusiasm adds a high note to the rigors of tracking training.

Aussies are quick to learn tracking fundamentals, and with sufficient training are able to work out difficult scenting problems without help from the handler. They are willing and able to make decisions for themselves. Tracking offers a variety of challenges to the easily bored dog, since no combination of track, weather, or ground conditions is ever the same. Beware of "little white lies" every so often, especially if your training routine has gotten predictable. These dogs will make sure you’re paying attention!

 

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