Land or acreage and terrain suitable for tracking is not always easy to find, and when found, every attempt should be made by the trackers to have a good working re- lationship with the landowners.
This relationship begins with securing permission to use the property, either as an individual or as a group. Such large tracts of land are likely to be farmland or as yet undeveloped commercial parks. Farmland will usually have an owner, the farmer, with whom one can talk. Commercial property may be owned by a bank, realtor, or contractor. In either case, the land may be leased, and the lessee must also be contacted. Occasionally a community or subdivision may have set aside acreage for their own recreational purposes and the chairman of the organization should be consulted. In short, land has owners, be they individuals, businesses, community groups, or governments, and the owners should be asked permission to use the land especially if it will be used regularly or by a group.
In asking permission for land use, every facet of tracking should be explained since it is unlikely the landowner will have any knowledge of the sport. Explain that the dogs will be on lead and under control at all times to alleviate any fear that the dogs will be free to chase livestock or run through adjacent crops. Find out where vehicles may and may not be driven or parked on the land. It is not uncommon for land to be used for cutting grass for hay, and constant walking or driving may flatten the grass making cutting and pick-up by a baler difficult. Give the owner as much information as possible about the number of dogs and people involved and their schedules for using the land as well as any matches or tests they may be planning. Ask if any special arrangements need to be made for land use such as a restriction of times, specific areas that are not to be used, or notification when the land is used. Be sure that everyone using the land is aware of and abides by any such rules!
Another factor that will need to be discussed is liability of the property owner. The entry form for an AKC event contains a release, and it is a good idea to give a copy to the owner to set his mind at ease. Offer to have a similar agreement signed for the routine use of the land if possible liability is of concern to the owner. Give the owner a list of those people who will be using the land.
A few words of caution. Remember you are a guest of the owner. Should his activities interfere with yours at any time do not become angry or complain, but if it is a continuing problem calmly discuss the situation with him. Also remember that you do not necessarily have the authority to extend permission for using the land to other individuals or groups. Should you learn that others with dogs are also using the land, explain to them that permission is necessary for its use and suggest they obtain it before continuing.
Dog training organizations should respect each other’s need for tracking fields and either get together requesting permission for all, or have it understood that each group is locating fields and negotiating for its own needs. It unfortunately has happened that access to choice fields has been denied to all because a second organization began using the same property without permission, were violating the rules set up originally, or scared off the owner or manager in asking for their own permission because of “everybody” wanting its use.
Sportsmanship involves more than congratulating a winner. It also means respecting the authority, activities, and good fortune of other groups for the benefit of all involved with training dogs.
©1979 W. H. Morrison, III