The beauty and grace of the dog silhouetted on the slopes or against the sky on a track. He may be seeking a quarry, searching for a lost child, or perhaps his master. Oh! The thrill of participating in a useful sport wherein the dog follows his natural instincts and the handler takes only the minor role.
So many books and articles have been published, some good and others mediocre on tracking, that I am not going to contribute to the training angle. I am taking for granted the handler starting his dog has become knowledgeable by reading good literature on the subject or attending tracking clinics.
My first thought is that we do not teach a dog to track; he could really write a good book on the subject if this were physically possible. We can only teach him to concentrate on a specific scent. I had an excellent example of this many years ago in the early 1940’s. We were at Virginia Beach during the height of the summer. We left our 2 cross breed dogs with out daughter and we sauntered down the beach, barefoot, wading in the surf and walking in the sand. We went about a mile and were sitting in a tavern about an hour when who should come in? Yes, they had tracked us down. I thought this was an amazing feat at the time, and now I really marvel.
I have seen Diana’s Liza struggle through snow deeper than her height to obtain her “T”. I recall a night when a party of 5 was hopelessly lost in a forest and a great tracker returned them to safety. This same dog located his mate in the garden with toxic poisoning too ill to respond when called.
I have been experimenting with my dogs and assisting others requesting assistance for quite a few years. I had annual tracking parties at one time. I hoped to create a spark of interest in our area in the sport. I cannot recall a single “T” title directly related to my efforts. I also conducted a tracking session for a club about a year ago. There were 13 eager handlers and dogs participating. All got a good start and three of the dogs were outstanding (one was able to take a strange scent for 100 yards with a turn). I was very enthused and had high hopes for some new trackers. This is one year later and not one dog has continued to get certification.
This is no exception and I have determined it takes a certain type person to meet the requirements needed for tracking. I have concluded we are stressing the wrong end of the lead. I suggest each prospective handler take a long hard look at work involved, and evaluate the wisdom of choice. I have listed a few questions if answered honestly will save you and your instructor time and effort.
Why are there so few tracking dogs? It takes a single-minded, dedicated person with determination and perseverance to work in all weather and terrain. One must have stamina to run or walk rapidly, if necessary, a minimum of 1/4 mile. He should be knowledgeable in determining the reasons for success or failure of a track, not blaming the dog if the track was poorly laid. He must be able to read the dog, observing all indications of communications the dog imparts.
Does the handler guard against using obedience commands with exception of “Stay”, “Wait”, “Easy” and refrain from calling him by name? Does he refrain from using that ugly word “no”? This command will discourage the best of trackers.
Does the handler have access to a large field? Is there a friend or neighbor you can rely on to train in laying a good track, when you reach this stage? Many people are just not interested in working alone with their dog.
Please do not get the impression that I am negative on this great sport. On the contrary, I have enjoyed getting three ‘Ts” and work with the two Shepherd dogs I now have. I would appreciate seeing the people that start in this sport derive the pleasure out of it that I have. Happy Tracking!
©1973 E. Tinetti