I took Dixie, a nine month old Norfolk puppy, and Fleur, my five year old, on the journey to Warrenton, VA, for a tracking clinic put on by Julie Hogan and Donna Thompson. Between them, these two trainers have put 54 Tracking Degrees (TDs) and nine Tracking Dog Excellent Degrees (TDXs) on their dogs (mainly Springer Spaniels) since their start in 1973 and I thought this would be a great opportunity to learn from the experts.
In all, there were 14 women and three men enrolled. I had the only Norfolks inasmuch as Linda Plummer had opted to leaver hers at home in favor of bringing her three year old black Labrador, Sooty. Other breeds represented included three Goldens, two Shepherds, two Poodles, and English Cocker, a Border Terrier, a Clumber Spaniel, a Briard, a Fox Terrier, and a Border Collie.
We were given a publication, Practical Tracking for Practically Everyone, watched videos and had tests, in addition to listening to lectures and taking part in field practice, during the two day training session.
Field work started with a simple, straight track at the end of which lay a glove which sometimes held a treat on top or hidden inside. The length gets progressively longer until the dog can go at least 50 yards including two 90 degree turns. In order to compete for a TD, each dog must initially be certified by an AKC-licensed judge. The certification is good for one year, during which time the dog is able to compete for the AKC tracking dog title.
There is a lottery system which determines whether you can compete in an AKC tracking event. Entries close ten days before the trial and competitors are notified as to whether or not they have been chosen to compete. The track that will be followed and the order in which you compete are determined the morning of the trial. Full details are available from the AKC at a cost of fifty cents.
I found tracking to be a lot of fun and the perfect answer for a game, runaway terrier. The tracking attire consists of a non-restrictive harness and a six foot lead to start, graduating to a 20 foot lead and then to a 40 foot lead. For the AKC test, you must remain a minimum of 20 feet behind your dog, but not more than 40 feet.
A good book on tracking will get you started, and I also recommend a clinic such as the one Linda and I attended. So, go harness up the couch potato or champion, get those puppies started in your back yard ... and let's get those Norfolks on track!
P.S. Sooty is a tracking demon and young Dixie out did old Fleur!
ANTIC, Summer, 1992
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