Tasmanian Dog Training Club Inc. Track & Search Trials

For details of how to enter trials see Trialling – General Information.

The club holds two track and search trials each year, in the winter months. They are held at the club’s training grounds – Churchill Park Sports Complex, Invermay and in the surrounding urban areas of Invermay, Mowbray, Newnham, etc.

Note: Other Tasmanian dog training clubs also hold track and search trials during the winter months – these are advertised in the Dogs Tasmania Gazette.

The principles of track & search are the same as for tracking.  A track is laid by a tracklayer by walking a designated track for a distance of between 800 and 1200 metres. After the appropriate time has elapsed (from test 1 minimum 1 hour to test 10 maximum 8 hours), the tracklayer will return to the end of the track, you and your dog are brought to the starting point and given the ‘start article’ – a personal item belonging to the tracklayer. Your dog will be expected to take the scent from the start article, follow the track and find the tracklayer at the end of the track.

Track and search tracks are designed to be as close as possible to a real life situation where a dog is meant to find a missing person in varying terrain.  Tests 1 to 4 are held in parkland type terrain, with some hard surfaces, e.g. sand, gravel, limestone.  Tests 5 to 10 are urban tracks, set around the suburban streets and are on varied surfaces, e.g. sealed roads, pavements, foot trails, grassed areas and include parked cars, light vehicle and pedestrian traffic and may be in close proximity to buildings.  Tests 6, 8 and 10 are held at night.

The ultimate goal in track & search is for your dog to achieve the Track & Search Grand Champion title. There are ten tests in which the dog must qualify on its way to becoming a track & search grand champion, with other titles achieved on the way. The first test is a fairly simple 800 metre track, the tests then increasing in length and difficulty as the dog progresses. To qualify for a title your dog must pass each of the tests once.

To enter a trial, your dog must be a minimum of 6 months of age at the trial date and registered with a member body of ANKC. Dogs are required to compete in a harness and lead with minimum length 10 metres for tests 1 to 4, minimum length 5 metres for tests 6 to 10.  However, it is understood that because of the high possibility of encountering other animals, pedestrians, vehicular traffic, etc, the hander must be confident that they have complete control over their dog.

Test 1 – 800m
Test 2 – 800m
Test 3 – 800m – TSD – Track & Search Dog Title
Test 4 – 1000m
Test 5 – 800m
Test 6 – 800m – TSDX – Track & Search Dog Excellent Title
Test 7 – 1000m
Test 8 – 1000m – TS. Ch. – Track & Search Dog Champion Title
Test 9 – 1200m
Test 10 –1200m – TS. Grand Ch. – Track & Search Grand Champion Title

A few notes before putting in your entries for a trial:

• You should read the official rules if you are going to enter a trial.
• The rules can be downloaded from the ANKC website www.ankc.org.au (or search ANKC Rules)
• Look under – Rules – then Rules for the conduct of Track and Search Dog Trials – (effective 1 January 2024)

Click here to go to ANKC

• The track & search tests must be done in sequence, 1 to 10, so when you put in your entry it can only be one test higher than you have already achieved. If the closing dates for trials are very close together you must apply for the same test level in both trials. If you are fortunate enough to pass at that level, then you must notify the trial secretary for the next trial and ask for an upgrade to the next level. You cannot assume in advance that you are going to pass at any level at any trial.

• It is your responsibility to nominate the correct test level on the entry form. You will be scheduled to do the test level you have stated (unless you have requested an upgrade to the next level). If it’s incorrect, then you will miss out. You can take part in track & search trials Australia wide so the clubs have no means to check what level you have achieved. So, check your entry closely before lodging it.

• You must have passes from at least 2 different judges for each title. Note:  in a track & search trial there is normally only one judge.

Once again it is your responsibility to check your previous qualifying certificates (especially if it’s over 2 seasons) to make sure you do not already have 2 passes (or 1 in the case of tests 7 & 8 and tests 9 & 10) with the trial judge.  If you get all passes within a title with the same judge Dogs Tasmania will not recognize your title application.

• If you qualify for a track & search title TSD, TSDX or TS Ch you are not eligible to compete for a higher title until such time as you have lodged an application for the title with the state canine control – i.e. Dogs Tasmania. So, if you pass a test 3, 6 or 8 at a trial, get your title application in asap – especially if there’s another trial scheduled soon.

Trial Day Notes for Competitors

1. Check In

• Get to the tracking venue, usually the club’s training grounds in Churchill Park Sports Complex, Invermay, in good time to be checked in – every bitch on site (whether or not entered in the trial) must be checked to make sure it is not in season or has no discharge
• The judge prepares the running sheet the day before the trial, so if you are withdrawing from the trial please let the trial secretary know in good time so you will not be included on the schedule.
• If you are going to be late arriving for check in, let the trial secretary know else you could be removed from the running sheet
• Write your name and your dog’s name on the entry number ticket. This saves time when working out which bag to send with which tracklayer and the tracklayer can check that they have the correct reward for the dog
• Your entry number ticket, dog treat for the end of the track and the tracklayers treat should be in a plastic ziplock bag. This is handed in when you check in and is given to the tracklayer before he/she goes out to lay the track. If you are doing a test 1 you may be asked to give your reward directly to your known tracklayer.
• The reward for your dog may be food in a small sealed container or a favourite toy.
• The treat for the tracklayer could be chocolate, a fruit drink, scratchies, etc. to reward them for setting out your track. This should be a small treat, easily carried by the tracklayer. If you want to give something more substantial then do it later.
• A known tracklayer (for test 1) is someone you nominate to lay your track – but it should be someone who has had experience laying a track in trial conditions and must be a member of Dogs Tasmania and/or a member of one of the affiliate clubs. An unknown tracklayer will be nominated by the trial secretary and is someone who has not laid a track at a trial for your dog in the past 4 months.
• Once everyone is checked in, the judge usually gives a short talk – so make sure you are there to listen. You will be told what time you will be tracking with your dog – approximately – and if you are going to lay a track, you will be told what time you will be starting.

2. Time Constraints

• Make sure you wait where you are told for your turn even if it seems ages.
• There is a maximum time limit after the tracklayer has gone out. If you are not ready to go within this time the judge cannot wait for you. This also applies to track layers; the judge works to a tight schedule to get the trial completed.
• If you are going to lay a track, make sure you have your articles on your body for at least half an hour before you set out and ensure you give your start article to the judge or the steward before setting out.

3. Your dog

• If you are laying a track, make sure you leave your own dog in a crate or in your car in the shade and where it won’t upset other people or dogs
• Never let your dog run off lead.  Churchill Park is an on lead area, except for the off lead dog park.
• Carry poo bags to clean up after your dog, even when tracking

4. Equipment

• The suitability of all equipment is left to the discretion of the judge or judge’s delegate who may ask to inspect your equipment before you track your dog or before you go out to lay a track
• Harness should fit snugly and distribute the load over the dog’s chest. It should also be easy to put on – e.g. have only one clip – unless you have a very placid dog.  Lead must be at least 10 metres long for tests 1 to 4, 5 metres for tests 5 to 10.
• Dog coat can be worn if the weather is extreme
• For urban street tracks, suitable safety equipment for handler and dog must be available.
• Articles should belong to the tracklayer (eg gloves, key ring, spectacle case, small toy) – something that a person may drop if he/she is wandering around lost.

5. On the Track

• The judge will take you towards the start of  your track and hand you a bag containing the start article, will tell you to harness up your dog and to start the track when you are ready. Put your harness and lead on your dog about 4 or 5 metres before the start line. Take your time and make sure your lead is not tangled by laying it out behind you on the ground. You can drop your dog’s collar/lead on the ground, the steward will carry them for you.
• Approach the start line with your dog on a short lead – about 2 metres – open the bag and drop the start article on the ground.  Make sure your dog has a good sniff of the start article.
• It is your decision whether to collect the start article and take it with you. You may use the article to re-scent the dog, but your pass will drop one grade each time you re-scent the dog.
• You must limit the dog to a normal, brisk walking pace. The judge is not going to run after you and you will probably miss the turns if you are going too fast.
• You are allowed to stop to allow the dog to cast around for the scent, or call him back to you to recast, but you must not pull him back.
• When tracking on the streets – tests 5 – 10 – you must gather up the loose lead when approaching roads.  Trailing leads are a safety hazard and may get caught up in passing traffic.
• Also on street tracks and any other track where the judge deems it necessary, high visibility reflective day and night vest/jacket must be worn by the handler.  For night time tracks – tests 6, 8 and 10 – the handler must wear a functioning head lamp.  The dog must also have some kind of safety equipment – fluorescent jacket or lead, flashing lights, etc.
• When on the track you can not offer your dog food treats or utilize training aids. Water may be offered to the dog.
• The judge will allow some deviation off the track, but each judge has different ideas about this and it will depend on things like the environment, vegetation and wind direction.
• Tracks are graded excellent, very good, good, pass or fail. To get an excellent grading your dog must follow the track closely, take all turns well and find articles when necessary and find the tracklayer.
• If you get so far off the track that in the opinion of the judge your dog is not going to be able to find the track again, the judge will call you off. Then, even though you have failed, he will guide you to complete the track in your own time so the dog can find the tracklayer and get its reward.
• Unlike other disciplines you will not automatically fail if your dog urinates or defecates while tracking.

6. Finally

• Don’t be impatient. We all get nervous while waiting for our turn, try to relax and enjoy the day.
• After the final track of the day, the judge will present the certificates and medallions/sashes to those who have passed. It is good etiquette to stay for the presentation – even if your dog has not passed the track.