hooked with Tracking!
Looking for something new to do with your Vizsla? You have already done some obedience, conformation, agility and field and you are looking for a new challenge? Why don’t you give tracking a try?
Basically, what a tracking dog should do is to follow the scent left by a person, stranger to the dog, in an open field while walking at a normal pace. With the American Kennel Club (USA), there are 3 titles your dog can earn : Tracking Dog (TD), Tracking Dog Excellent (TDX) and Variable Surface Tracking (VST). When a dog has earned the 3 titles, he becomes a Champion Tracker and can add the letters CT in front of his name. With the Canadian Kennel Club (CKC), there are 4 titles your dog can earn : Tracking Dog (TD), Tracking Dog Excellent (TDX), Urban Tracking Dog (UTD) and Urban Tracking Dog Excellent (UTDX). The requirement is about the same as with the United States with some minor differences. Also, the 2 levels of Urban tracking gives a nice transition to the very difficult Urban Tracking Dog Excellent or VST.
At the TD level, the length of the track is between 440 – 500 yards with 3 to 5 turns. The track has to be at least 30 minutes old but no more than 2 hours. In order to pass, the dog has to find a leather article (glove or wallet) left by the tracklayer at the end of the track. At the TDX level, the track is between 800 – 1000 yards with 5 to 7 turns. The track has to be at least 3 hours old but no more than 5 hours. There are four articles (leather or fabric ex.: wallet, glove, socks, tie, etc.) - in Canada, only leather articles and no start article - left on the track. The track will also be crossed with a more recent track in two different places and might cross a road or go in the woods too. The dog has to find all articles in order to pass (in Canada he has to find the last article and at least one of the other two). Finally, the VST (similar to the canadian Urban Tracking Dog Excellent) level is the most challenging. As the name imply, the dog has to track in all kind of surface whether it is grass, asphalt, gravel, concrete, sand, mulch, etc. For the VST, the length of the track is between 600 – 800 yards with 4 to 8 turns and at least one of the turn should be in an area devoid of vegetation. The age of the track is at least 3 hours old but no more than 5 hours. There are 4 articles to be find (1 leather, 1 plastic, 1 metal and 1 fabric). The articles should be common day to day items. In Canada, the lenght of the UTD track is 300 - 400 yards with 3 to 5 turns and 3 articles. The age of the track is between 1 to 2 hours.
The Vizsla, as a hunting dog, makes a very good tracking dog. His great nose, athletic disposition, willingness to please and his love for food are all good assets for tracking. To teach your Vizsla to track, use food as the motivator to follow the track. Pieces of food (hot dog, dog kibble, etc.) will be dropped on the track and the dog will eat them, thus following the track. At some point, the dog will figure out it has to follow the scent and you can gradually weaned him off from food. As most Vizsla are very food oriented, it makes that step much easier.
Tracking is a team effort, probably more than any other activity you and your Vizsla can get involved in. Without teamwork and confidence in your dog, you will be lost forever in the field. Your Vizsla needs to be able to find and follow the track but you need to be able to read what your Vizsla will tell you: how he indicates he has lost the track and how he indicates when he is back on it. Imagine yourself blind in the middle of the field and you need to go back to your starting point guided by your Vizsla. That is the feeling you will have when you will follow your first “blind” track.
Tracking is a sport that needs to be discovered for the camaraderie you will find but most of all, because your Vizsla will love it.
Here is an example of what a TDX track could look. It is Willow's track to earn his TDX.