Tasmanian Dog Training Club Inc. Tracking Trials

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

The club holds one tracking trial each year, usually in June/July, in the Northern Midlands area. We are privileged to be given access to farming properties around Campbell Town and Ross and we must comply with the terms and conditions specified by the property owners.

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

The principles of tracking are simple. A track is laid by a tracklayer by walking a designated track for a distance of between 400 and 1200 metres, while dropping articles such as socks, gloves, etc. on the track for your dog to find. The tracklayer then hides at the end of the track. After the appropriate time has elapsed (from test 1 minimum 20 minutes to test 10 maximum 4 hours) you and your dog are brought to the starting point. Your dog will be expected to follow the track, find the required number of articles and find the tracklayer at the end of the track.

The ultimate goal in tracking is for your dog to achieve the Tracking Grand Champion title. There are ten tests in which the dog must qualify on its way to becoming a tracking grand champion, with other titles achieved on the way. The first test is a fairly simple 400 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.

Test 1 – 400m
Test 2 – 800m
Test 3 – 800m – TD Tracking Dog Title
Test 4 – 1000m
Test 5 – 1000m
Test 6 – 1200m – TDX Tracking Dog Excellent Title
Test 7 – 1200m
Test 8 – 1200m – T.Ch. Tracking Champion Title
Test 9 – 1200m
Test 10 – 1200m – T.Gr.Ch. Tracking Grand Champion Title

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.

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 Tracking Trials – (effective 1 January 2024)

Click here to go to ANKC

• The tracking 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 tracking 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. Once again it is your responsibility to check your previous qualifying certificates (especially if it’s over 2 seasons) and let the club know with your entry if you already have 2 passes (or 1 in the case of tests 7&8 and 9&10 ) with one of the trial judges so that you can be put on the other judge’s schedule. 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 tracking title, TD, TDX or T.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 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 or test 2 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, a puzzle book, etc. to reward them for sitting out in the bush for an hour or so waiting, possibly in the rain and frost. This should be a small treat, easily carried by the tracklayer. If you want to give something more substantial then do it later when you have returned to base after the track.
• A known tracklayer (for tests 1 and 2) 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. The person may be known to you, but you will not be told who it is.
• 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.

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 while on a farm or else you may be asked to leave the trial. Even small city dogs may harass or attack livestock. Respect the farmer, it is not only his workplace but is also his home and it is very generous of him to let us be there. Often the tracking season coincides with lambing, the ewes must not be disturbed by you or your dog.
• The property owners are now requiring the clubs to conform to bio-security risk management practices.
o Your dog must be wormed against hydatid tapeworm. Note: not all worming treatments cover hydatid tapeworm, and most treatments only cover the dog for 6 weeks, so your dog may need to be treated 2 or 3 times during the tracking season.
o If you or your vehicle have been on a farming property in the weeks preceding a trial, then ensure your boots/shoes/under car/car wheel arches are clear of any mud or weeds/seeds.
• If you take your dog for a walk or a toilet break, make sure you do not wander across any tracks. If you see any flags, then stay away from that area.
• Don’t go into any paddocks and do not wander too far and get lost in the bush
• 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.
• Dog coat can be worn under the harness if the weather is extreme
• Lead must be at least 10 metres long. Do not have a loop at the end as it could get caught on something. A knot at the end of the lead with another knot about 1 metre from the end will warn you that you are getting towards the end of the lead.
• Articles should belong to the tracklayer (eg socks/gloves), no larger/smaller than ‘Explorer’ type sock – wool holds the scent better than synthetics. They should be an inconspicuous colour so they cannot be sighted from a distance by the dog.

5. On the Track

• The judge will take you towards your track and usually tells 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 flag. 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 flag with your dog on a short lead – about 2 metres – and make sure your dog has a good sniff of the start article.
• 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.
• The dog must be worked at the length of lead suitable to the terrain. So on the track you must decide how much lead to let out. If you are in bush with a lot of branches and rubbish on the ground, keep it short so it doesn’t get caught. If you are in open terrain let your lead out all the way to give your dog room to work. You may find it useful to wear gloves if your dog pulls very hard, or pass the lead around your back and lean back on it to take the strain.
• You are allowed to talk to your dog. However, don’t overdo it and distract the dog. You are not allowed to guide the dog but you are allowed to stop and allow him to cast around for the scent, or call him back to you to recast, but you must not pull him back.
• The judge may ask how you or your dog will indicate an article. Most dogs just sniff the article then the handler raises a hand and calls ‘article’. Do not indicate to the judge before the dog has sniffed the article else it will be marked as a missed article. You are not allowed to guide your dog onto the article, even though you may have spotted it and the dog has missed it.
• It is your decision whether to collect the articles as you find them. If you pick them up you will need a pocket or someway to carry them. If you leave them on the track the steward will pick them up and then you are not carrying the tracklayers scent along with you. Some handlers pick up the start article and leave the others. You may use the article to re-scent the dog, but your pass will drop one grade each time you re-scent the dog.
• The judge will allow some deviation off the track – sometimes up to 1 lead length – 10 metres, but each judge has different ideas about this and it will depend on things like the slope of the ground, vegetation and wind direction.
• When on the track you can not offer your dog food treats or utilize training aids. Water may be offered to the dog.
• Try to always face forward as tracks are a series of straight lines and you will get disoriented if you turn. If your dog circles around you pass the lead over your head rather than turning. If your dog moves to one side, take a step to the same side to keep behind the dog. Gundogs in particular will often weave along the line of the track rather than take a straight line.
• You may see some paint marks on the ground where the flags have been. This is encouraging as you know you are on the track, however, you will not know if you are on a turn or a straight line.
• Remember that articles (socks) will be on straight sections of track so if your dog finds an article and immediately changes direction it is probably wrong, so call the dog back and let it recast. Similarly, a track must not be within 5 metres of a fence or boundary line, so if you are heading towards a fence it may be time to backup and recast.
• 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 all the articles and 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 in the bush
• 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.