Tracking by nature, is a vigorous, noncompetitive outdoor sport. This sport allows dogs, which are trained in tracking to be tested on their ability to recognize and follow human scent and find an article, or articles, left by the person whom they are tracking, a skill that is useful in the service of mankind
The American Kennel Club offers three different tests, varying in difficulty and venue. The Tracking Dog (TD) title is the most basic test and is the foundation for the two other titles, the Tracking Dog Excellent (TDX) and the Variable Surface Tracker (VST) titles. A dog, which passes all three tests, earns the title of Champion Tracker (CT). A dog with the ability to pass these tests is a true Champion of this sport. See the perpetual list of CT Tervs since the award was started.
All tracking events are pass/fail. The fundamental features of a TD test are the dog’s ability to follow a track laid by a person under a variety of conditions on moderate terrain and find an article dropped by that person. A dog must possess the TD title before being allowed to exhibit in either the Tracking Dog Excellent or the Variable Surface Tracking tests. (Ed. note: The dog shown to the left is a recessive black Tervuren. See the "Complete Belgian Tervuren" p 120 for an explanation of how she differs from a Belgian Sheepdog)
The primary feature of a Tracking Dog Excellent (TDX) test is to show unquestionably that the dog has the ability to discriminate scent and possesses the stamina, perseverance and courage to do so under a wide variety of conditions. Some of these conditions include obstacles, such as woods, streams, or fences, and the track must be crossed at two widely separated points by two people other than the primary tracklayer. The dog must actively work throughout these challenging conditions. The dog/handler team, which passes this extremely difficult test, has truly earned the title Tracking Dog Excellent.
The Variable Surface Tracking test is a test of credibility, verifying the dog’s ability to recognize and follow human scent while adapting to changing scenting conditions. While the TD and TDX tests are conducted in fields or forest preserves, the VST test is an urban tracking level. Tests are held at locations such as business and corporate parks, community or state colleges and other various urban venues. The dog must follow the scent of his tracklayer over differing and sometimes widely variable surfaces, for example concrete, asphalt, and gravel and there must be at least three of these surfaces in each test track. One third to one half of the track must be devoid of vegetation.
The first VST test was held September 5, 1995 in Ellicott City, MD. Since then, more than 81 all-breed VST titles have been awarded and 76 all-breed Champion Tracker titles, 20 in 2003 alone. With a nationwide pass rate of about
7 %, as opposed to 55% for TD and 17% for the TDX title, there can be no doubt that this is possibly the most difficult of all the AKC titles to earn. While Belgian Tervuren typically excel at tracking, the trainer must have as much perseverance and patience as his/her teammate.
Die-hard tracking enthusiasts know that there is no other sport that solidifies the dog/owner bond than the fascinating world of scentwork and tracking.
For more information on these events or on getting started in this sport, visit the American Kennel Club website and look up "Getting Started in Tracking". The ABTC Tracking Committee has also composed a list of available resources for those interested in tracking. You may view helpful links and regional club websites via the links under tracking.
The Tracking Committee is available to answer any questions you may have. Feel free to contact anyone on the Committee.