What is Tracking?
In a formal setting, Tracking requires the dog to use its natural abilities to discern and follow the ground-scent left behind by a person who has walked across a variety of terrains. Dogs are trained to track wearing a body harness attached to a 10-metre-long lead.
All dogs already know how to track: the skill involves teaching them to follow the scent you want them to follow over extended distances – even if they encounter other enticing scents or sights such as kangaroos and rabbits. Food rewards and a big game await them at the end of every track.
Like all sports, Tracking involves teamwork. The skill for the handler is to learn to ‘read’ their dog and to have the stamina and commitment to train outdoors in Canberra’s coldest months.
Am I eligible to participate?
Dogs of all types and ages can participate in Tracking and there is no training pre-requisite for participation. It is a suitable sport for dogs who may struggle with their dog-dog social skills as dogs work on their own and the activity is always conducted on lead.
However, Tracking is not for ‘fair-weather’ trainers. Handlers need to be willing and able to travel to suitable training locations and to trek through long (and often wet or frosty) grass or bush on cold winter mornings to help their dog ‘learn the game’ and to develop their own handling and observational skills to support their dog.
When are classes held?
Unlike other Club activities, the Club does not hold formal classes for Tracking. Instead, members interested in Tracking meet up regularly through winter, usually once or twice a week, to help each other lay tracks and improve their handling skills. The locations vary from open grassland to open woodland with undulating terrain.
In the early stages of training, you also need to practice between these sessions, preferably daily, in order to help your dog understand what it is you want it to do and to systematically increase the distance and age of the track. Having a training ‘buddy’ will help as you progress with your training.
What is involved in competing?
Tracking is a Dogs Australia sanctioned sport and you and your dog must be registered with the relevant state body (eg Dogs ACT or Dogs NSW depending on your place of residence) in order to enter a Tracking trial.
In a trial situation tracks vary from 400 metres to 1.2 kilometres in length depending on the level of competition and increase in complexity as handlers and dogs demonstrate their proficiency. The Club’s more experienced Tracking members can help you decide when you are ready to trial and how to enter a trial. Visit the Dogs Australia website for the rules for competing in Tracking.
The Club usually hosts at least one Tracking trial a year and most members at trialling level travel to Victoria and New South Wales to access trialling opportunities. See our calendar for dates.
How do I enrol in classes?
The Club usually holds an information evening in early May each year for members and other people interested in starting Tracking. Conditions apply to joining the Club for this sport due to its seasonal nature. Email the Club Office to be put in touch with the Tracking Convenor.