AKC tracking events are a competition form of canine search and rescue. These Tracking events test some of the skills of dogs and handlers needed for tracking and finding lost humans or other animals, as well as demonstrating the extremely high level of scent capability that dogs possess. Dogs need only successfully pass a test once to achieve the relevant title.
Tracking Dog (TD)
A dog earns a TD by following a track 440 to 500 yards long with three to five changes of direction. The track is laid by a human tracklayer and is “aged” 30 minutes to two hours before the dog begins scenting. The goal is to use the scented track to locate an article left at the end of the trail by the tracklayer. The owner follows the dog on a long leash and can encourage the dog during the tracking test. There’s no time limit as long as your dog is “working.”
Tracking Dog Urban (TDU)
The fundamental features of the Tracking Dog Urban (TDU) test are the dog’s ability to follow a track laid by a person under a variety of scenting conditions in an urban environment and to find the articles dropped by that person. This is an optional titling event. Clubs are not required to offer this test and dogs are not required to earn the title to enter a TD, TDX, or VST tracking test.
Tracking Dog Excellent (TDX)
The TDX is earned by following an “older” track (three to five hours) that is also longer (800 to 1,000 yard) and has five to seven directional changes with the additional challenge of human cross tracks.
Variable Surface Tracking (VST)
In the real world, dogs track through urban settings, as well as through wilderness. A VST dog has demonstrated this ability by following a three- to five-hour-old track that may take him down a street, through a building and other areas devoid of vegetation.
Champion Tracker (CT)
A dog that has successfully completed all three tracking titles (TD, TDX and VST) earns the prestigious title of Champion Tracker.
Since all dogs have a natural ability to follow a scent, any breed is capable of learning to track. The best way to develop your dog’s tracking skills is to find a Tracking class at your local tracking club. Tracking requires very little equipment - a harness, a 20-to-40 foot lead, a few flags to mark your track, scent articles, and an open grassy area free of obstacles – but does require an investment of time for training under varied conditions. It is also very helpful to attend a tracking test event to observe test conditions, dog scenting behavior, and owner handling techniques.
You can then decide if you want to test your dog’s abilities in a Tracking Dog (TD) test. Before you enter your first Tracking Dog test, you must have the dog certified by a person approved to judge tracking tests, or by a person who has handled a dog to a TDX or VST title within the last 10 years, that the dog and handler are sufficiently skilled to participate in a Test. This certification form must accompany the entry form.