Service Dogs of America
Ultimate Dog Sport

SDA

Working Dog Registry

Titling program for protection, obedience, tracking & search dogs

 

TRACKING EXERCISES

Tracking Generally.

In real life tracking and trailing, the working dog must be able to adapt to various situations depending upon weather, terrain, and scent in order to do its job. A working dog is only successful in its track when it attains its goal - finding that which is sought.

A. General Rules

To be eligible to exhibit a dog in tracking tests, a dog must be:

Registered with the SDA

9 months of age or older for T1, 15 months of age or older for T2 & MT (Master Track)

Judges are solely in charge of the tracking field and their decisions are final in all matters affecting the evaluation and the working of the dogs and their owners.
1. All tracking titles are sequential. The sequence is:
Tracking 1 (T1)
Tracking 2 (T2)
Master track (MT)
2. All tracking must be done on lead. Acceptable tracking line length is a minimum of 30 feet (10-meters), and a maximum of 40 feet. The Judge may request a line length check to ensure that the lead is of correct length. A line touching the ground is not faulty as long as this dose not result in substantial shorting of the length.
3. While running the track the handler will stay at the end of the tracking line. In special circumstances involving safety (such as crossing a road or navigating an obstacle), or where otherwise indicated by the judge, the handler may move closer to the dog, but must return to the end of the tracking line after the safety hazard or problem has been negotiated.
4. Tracking may be done with the line attached to a standard tracking harness, a Boettcher harness, or to the dead ring on a collar. The position of the line with respect to the dog (on top, underneath, or beside) is unimportant, as long as the dog may freely move while working the track.
5. Reporting for the track will done by the handler and dog only. Tracks will be assigned by draw at the trial. Handlers are not required to formally report in for their track and may directly proceed to the start flag at the judge's instruction.
6. The handler may offer verbal encouragement to the dog once in a while, but may not guide the dog by means of leash correction or other physical or verbal influence.
7. Ideal tracking can be slow or brisk pace, but full of intensity, yet without being hectic. Fallowing the course of the track evenly, uniformly and convincingly. The ideal picture of a tracking dog is one that is enthusiastic, alert and continuously working. There is no time limit provided the dog is working. If the dog is off track and clearly not working then there is no requirement to wait the dog will fail the track.
8. Articles: 1-11 points each

a)         Articles: Within any one-track articles different form each other must be used. They can be cloth, leather, and vinyl, wood or metal. Their color may not stand out considerably from that of the terrain, and their size may not exceed 4 inches long by 4 inches wide and 1/2 inch thick.

b)        Placement of articles: Articles are to be laid on the track while the tracklayer is in motion. Articles are not to be placed less then 20 paces before or after a corner. Articles should be in tracklayer's possession at least 30 minutes before placement.

c)         Indication: The articles must be found by the dog, the manner of indication (retrieving or indicating) is left to the discretion of the handler but must be declared to the judge prior to beginning the track. As soon as a dog has found an article it must immediately pick it up or indicate its location without handler help. The indication of articles may be done by standing, sitting, lying down or picking it up. If the dog picks up an article it may then stand still, sit or come to the handler. Moving forward with the picked up article or picking it up while lying down is faulty. If the dog brings the article to the handler, the handler may not move forward towards the dog. One command to release the article is permitted. The command to track will then be given and scoring will continue for where the article was found. Articles found with heavy handler help will be considered over run and all points for the article will be lost. A verbal command to start (continue tracking) will be given at the spot each article was recovered. If a dog indicates a false object or interrupts his track by lying down, sitting or standing still a point deduction will be given.

9. If the dog leaves the track the handler is to follow. Tracking will be terminated if the dog leaves the track by more than one line length.
10.The legs of the track shall be stepped in by tracklayer moving at a normal pace. Scraping or scuffing of feet or interruption of pace is not allowed.
11. Corners are to be approximately 90 degrees made at a normal pace. Heavy stomping of the corner is not allowed.
12. A dog that shows extreme fear or whose demeanor gives the Judge a reason to believe that the dog may not be safely examined must be dismissed by the judge and given a "fail."
13. The trial judge must be a certified SDA judge in good standing.

Value of the track:

The maximum 100 points can only be given if a dog works the track from beginning to end and picks up or indicates all articles and all corners must be worked out confidently. In the Master Track, the dog may not be influenced by the cross tracks. Any tracking title will only be awarded if the dog attains at least 70 points.

Major Faults: Strong wandering, hectic tracking, urinating or defecting, false indicating of articles.

Minor Faults: Faulty starting, aimless wandering, frequent circling of corners, incorrect picking up or indicating articles.
B. Track-laying Guidelines

Next to the judge, the tracklayers are the most important members of the test.

They must:

a)         Follow the directions of the judges

b)        Be sure they place the articles where indicated

c)         The tracklayer must be available to walk behind the judge as the tracking team is being evaluated. Should the dog lose the track or stop working, the judge may terminate the track. This will be noted as "Fail" on the official score sheet. With the judge's permission, the team may continue to work out the track, as a training exercise, however, the judge and tracklayer may move on to the next track.

d)        For the Master Track it is mandatory that responsible persons who have undergone special training in the field perform the track laying for this test.

1. All tracks shall be laid in terrain "as available" and as best conforms to the "ground cover" specifications for each tracking level. Terrain must be such that the tracklayer, dog, handler and judge may safely navigate the track. The length of the tracks may not be shortened, but with the judge's approval due to the nature of the tracking area, the length of an individual leg or shape of the track may be modified. Master Tracks may pass through public areas as long as the handler observes local leash laws.
2. A "pace" shall be counted as one (1) step at a normal walking speed.
3. Tracklayers must map their tracks as they are being laid, with appropriate landmarks, number of paces per leg, obstacles, and location and type of articles. The map of the track will be drawn on the official score sheet.
C. Tracking Exercises:
 
TRACKING 1 (T1):

This tracking title demonstrates that the dog understands the fundamentals of tracking. The judge must approve the direction and shape of the track prior to track laying. The length; of the track will be 350 to 400 paces with 2 articles. Ground cover should be moderate. There will be no obstacles on the track.

a)         The handler will lay the track.

b)        The start of the track will be marked with a start flag. The dog will be allowed one restart as long as the handler has not left the start flag. At the start the dog should be given ample time to take the scent from the trampled starting point.

c)         The track will consist of 3 legs and 2 corners. The first corner will be after a minimum of 100 paces. Turns can be two rights, two left, or one of each as approved by the judge prior to laying the track.

d)        There will be two articles. The judge must approve the articles prior to the handler laying the track. The first article will be at a minimum distance of 100 paces from the start, and the second article will be at the end. The articles may not be placed within 20 paces of any corner. The handler may praise the dog at the articles, as long as it is not disruptive to the flow of the track. The handler will hold each article up for the judge to see after the find is made.

e)         The track must age for 20 - 30 minutes.
Upon finding the last article, the handler will present all found articles to the judge.

TRACKING 2 (T2):

This is an intermediate tracking title and demonstrates that a dog has very good tracking instincts and ability. The length of the track will be 800 paces, with 3 articles. Cover should be moderate to heavy, and may include an obstacle such as gully, downed log, woods, or other obstacle. There should be at least one change of cover.

a)         A person other than the handler will lay the track.

b)        The start of the track will be marked with a start flag. The dog will be allowed one restart as long as the handler has not left the start flag. At the start the dog should be given ample time to take the scent from the trampled starting point.

c)         The track will consist of 5 legs and 4 corners. The first corner will be after a minimum of 100 paces. Turns should approximate 90-degrees but may be slightly open or slightly acute, as dictated by the terrain. Turns can be right or left and appropriate to the available grounds so long as all turns are not in the same direction.

d)        There will be three articles. The judge must approve the articles prior to the tracklayer laying the track. The first article will be placed at a minimum of 100 paces. The second article at the judge's discretion. The third article at the end of the track. The handler will hold each article up for the judge to see after the find is made. Articles should be in tracklayers possession at least 30 minutes before placement.

e)         The track must age at least 60 minutes but not more than 90 minutes.

f)          Upon finding the last article, the handler will present all found articles to the judge.

MASTER TRACK (MT):

The dog must demonstrate his track sureness on a stranger's track that is at least three hours old and at least 1800 paces long, and 5 articles. With 7 corners, at least two of the corners must be acute and one must be an arc [segment of a circle]. The track will be crossed at least twice by a fresher stranger-laid track, at varying points separate from each other. There should be at least one change of cover. Cover should be moderate to heavy, and must include crossing a road, and other obstacles such downed log, woods, etc.

a)         A person other than the handler will lay the track. The tracklayer plants two flags on a straight line, roughly 20 paces apart. The start itself will be found within a 20 x 20-meter area. From a straight line between the 2 flags, the tracklayer may start from any position on that straight line or from one of the two stakes and walk into the start area at any angle or direction and then lay down an, "identification article". This article marks the true start of the track. The dog will search for the article on lead. The handler may not enter the 20-meter square start area until the 10-meter tracking line is all the way out.

         Once the tracklayer has laid down the identification article, he must remain standing on that spot for a brief period of time. The track will then be laid at a normal pace.
The dog should be allowed to take up the scent thoroughly at the starting point. The dog should be so trained that, with no influence from the handler, it will calmly and extensively take the scent at the starting point. Under no circumstances may the handler urge the dog to rush forward by giving physical or verbal cues. No restart is permitted.
The scent article may be carried by the handler while running the track, but does not need to be presented to the judge.

Note: In training for the start of the MT, the dog should be trained to work within the 20-meter square area, much as field trial or hunting dogs are trained to work an area scenting for birds, or KNPV dogs are trained to work a field to find a lost article. They are taught to quarter the field, casting back within an imaginary distance until the handler directs the dog to work another area of the field. With a 20 x 20 meter area, the dog can be taught to work at the handler's signal within that area to search for the identification article, and once found, indicate it.

b)        The starting line marked by the tracklayer is shown to the handler by the judge. But the starting line itself does not necessarily establish the direction of the first leg of the track. From the location of the identification article, the track may proceed straight ahead, right, left or even at an angle. Notice should be taken of the fact that the first leg of the track may not cross the starting line.

c)         The track will consist of at least 7 turns/corners. Turns/corners can be right or left as appropriate to the terrain. Due to the extreme length, the tracklayer may occasionally leave a marker to aid in judging the track, however, the marker may not be left within 50 feet of any corner. Markers must also be noted on the track map. Markers must be discreet so as not to cue the dog and must be approved by the judge prior to laying the track

d)        There will be five articles. The judge must approve the articles prior to the tracklayer laying the track. The first article will be a scent article at the start of the track. The other 4 articles are to be laid on the track at irregular distances. The first article must be placed at a minimum of 250 paces from the starting-point. The fifth (last) article is laid at the end of the track. Articles must not be laid at corners or in the immediate vicinity there of. They must not be laid next to the track, but actually on the track. The tracklayer will note the location of each article by placing "X" marks on his track diagram. The track must be laid over changing terrain so as to simulate a real situation. Therefore any "pre-drawn map or pattern" is to be avoided.

e)         There will be a cross track laid 30 minutes before the start-time. The primary tracklayer is responsible for directing a second tracklayer (also a stranger to the dog) to lay a cross-track that will intersect the primary track at least twice.

f)          The track must age at least three hours but not more than four hours.

g)         Upon finding the last article, the handler will present all found articles to the judge.