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Upcoming Classes!

Saturday, November 13th, 2010: Agility @ 8
Saturday, November 20th, 2010: CGC/TDI Prep @ 8
Saturday, November 27th, 2010: Clicks N' Tricks @ 8

Dog Tracking Class

Misty Pines offers Tracking Workshops along with regular training events for those interested in the sport.

All dogs have the ability to track. Man has exploited this for centuries to his benefit and in some cases, for survival. In the case of sport tracking...pure enjoyment!

So what is sport tracking?

    The American Kennel Clubs defines “sport tracking” as follows:
  • “The purpose of a tracking test is to demonstrate the dog's ability to recognize and follow human scent, a skill that is useful in the service of mankind. Tracking, by nature, is a vigorous, noncompetitive outdoor sport. Tracking tests demonstrate the willingness and enjoyment of the dog in its work, and should always represent the best in sportsmanship and camaraderie by the people involved.”
    This is a fairly accurate definition with a few exceptions:
  • First, in sport tracking, the dogs primary scent source (at least in the beginning) is not human scent but the breakage of vegetation that the human track layer has created while laying the track. Although there is human scent or raft left on the track by the track layer it does play a role providing the unique character or “signature” of a specific track. As the dog becomes more experienced in tracking he learns to differentiate the track components to stay on the trail he’s been commanded to follow from beginning to end, and ignore cross tracks, game trails and other sources that do not fit the original track profile. A good example would be a critter that has recently been in your yard, Scruffy picks-up on the scent and zig zags the yard with nose to the ground scenting the critter. The key here is Scruffy is tracking the scent of the critter, not the track created. Training in sports tracking teaches the dog to methodically follow the track from start to finish.
  • Herding, working and hunting breeds have always thrived in tracking not because they have the best sense of smell, but because of their willingness to work. This working ability is a key factor in why these breeds are used all over the world for military, civil, assistance and SAR work.
  • Tracking is something that all dogs can do. It is a natural instinct for a dog to use this sense. From birth to about ~21 days, a puppy is essentially blind but it will still make its way to its mothers for a feeding using it’s sense of smell. Therefore, olfaction is the dogs “primary” sense from day one.
  • The dog's ability to process scent is extremely complex. The dog's olfactory sense is much, much more greatly developed than that of humans. There are countless research articles, books and research programs that have been dedicated to investigation of the canine olfactory system.

Most of us take for granted this incredible ability that Scruffy possesses because it’s something we see all the time. Think about it, when Scruffy goes for a walk, Scruffy’s nose is glued to the ground. He’s interpreting his world through scent. Sure, Scruffy is also using his vision to navigate and responding to sounds but his sense of smell provides him the primary information he needs.

An example, human vision is trichromatic; in a nutshell, our eyes are capable of interpreting the primary colors detailing our environment. Most of us see the world in intense colors and variations of details that aid in our daily survival. Our other senses such as olfactory and auditory accessorize our sight. Dogs on the other hand maintain a sense of smell that is as rich, if not more acute than human eyesight. In other words, dogs can smell what we see……...and then some. But we cannot see what they smell.

That’s putting it rather simplistically but it is a reasonable analogy that demonstrates how refined a dog sense of smell truly is.

Although domesticated, Scruffy is a predator that naturally “tracks”. Therefore, we really don't have to teach a dog to track, we exploit their natural ability to find what it is we want them to.

“What breeds make the best trackers?”

As previously mentioned, herding, working and sporting breeds tend to thrive in the sport but any breed of dog can have the potential. Dogs are individuals and some dogs may have a stronger drive to track than others. Sport tracking requires stamina by both dog and handler along with tolerance for weather elements.

Some believe “brach cephalic” dogs such as bull dogs, pugs, boxers, and other short muzzle breeds do not have as many scent receptors lining the nasal passages as dogs with longer muzzles…but they can still track. Unless a dog has a chronic upper respiratory or other health issues, or a lack of drive for tracking, there shouldn’t be any reason any dog couldn’t participate. Same rules apply for tracking as for any other training: level of effort will define level of success.

"How do I train for tracking?"

Like all disciplines there are many ways to train the dog to track. You are not actually teaching the dog to track. Dogs are able to do that from birth. What you are doing is training the dog to follow a designated scent. The most common way to start in tracking is to attend a seminar or course and then hook-up with a group with other tracking enthusiasts to do regular training. Unlike like obedience or conformation you cannot easily take group training, as the ground and space necessary is quite large and the time taken for each dog is too great to make it viable to train more than a few dogs at a time. Hence most people find it more practical either to do most of their training on their own or in small groups. Whichever way you train, you will be constantly surprised at the ability of the dog to track and to differentiate various scents, primarily breakage of vegetation. When starting foundation work, it is helpful to work individually. It is absolutely necessary for a handler to make their own tracks. When starting a dog, the handler must know where the track is at all times. Once a level of proficiency is developed and the dog understands what you’re asking him to do, then it’s time to have others lay the tracks for your dog.

“How frequently should we train”?

Generally in the beginning, a dog is worked on foundation training at least 4-5 days per week requiring ~˝ hour per session. As the dog progresses and tracks become aged, then 2-3 times weekly is ideal. This of course depends on how quickly the dog is advancing. Once the dog has clearly developed a command for tracking (able to consistently complete a AKC TD length track) then weekly is sufficient depending on your goals.

“How old does a dog need to be to start sport tracking?”

With puppies, it’s a good idea to wait a couple of weeks after the last series of vaccines but no younger than 12 weeks. Otherwise, as long as the dog is physically able and demonstrates a drive...it’s never too late!

"What equipment is required?"

  1. Nonrestrictive tracking harness.
  2. AKC requires a 20-40 line. I prefer to use parachute cord ~ 30ft length. Parachute cord is tangle resistant, less cumbersome, very strong and holds-up to the elements. Note: leather gloves are required if using cord
  3. Surveyor’s flags
  4. Food reward. I prefer to start a dog on freeze dried liver. Small amounts that can be eaten quickly.
  5. Article (glove, wallet or a leather swatch).

“I’m very interested in getting involved with search and rescue (SAR) with my dog, will sport tracking benefit my goal?”

Although some of the concepts used to train dogs in sport tracking are similar to methods used for training a dog in search or recovery, sport tracking is exactly what the title denotes, a sport. The training required to become a “Search dog team” is a total lifestyle commitment requiring hundreds of hours of dedication to training both handler and dog; sport tracking is basically a leisure activity to do with one’s dog.

"What prerequisites are there for entering a tracking trial?"

For an AKC sanctioned event, dogs must be registered with the American Kennel Club and pass a Tracking Qualification Test. Although no obedience qualifications are required, basic obedience is recommended.

"What tracking titles are available?"

AKC titles are: Tracking Dog (T.D.) Tracking Dog Excellent (T.D.X.) Variable Surface Tracker (VST) Champion Tracker (CT). Other organizations such as the CKC, Schutzhund USA, have their own titles that can be earned.

"What’s a typical tracking test entail?"

For TD track at least 440- 500 yards in total length with a minimum of 3-5 90 degree turns. There will be two articles placed on the track. The dog must give clear indication that the article left by the tracklayer at the end of the track has been found. For more details, review the AKC tracking section on their website. www.akc.org

If you are interested in being a part of a Tracking Class please click here to sign up for the Tracking Email list.


Vaccination Requirements for Dog Boarding and Dog Daycare: All dogs at Misty Pines Dog Park Company must be current on Rabies, DHLPP, and Bordetella (Bordetella every 6 months) vaccinations. All dogs must have received inoculations at least 10 days prior to their visit to Misty Pines. The waiting period will allow your dog to build optimal immunity to the vaccinations which will make your dog less susceptible to catching or transferring any unwanted viruses. This includes new and updated vaccinations. Your pet cannot be over due for vaccinations - NO EXCEPTIONS. For example, if your pet is scheduled to visit Misty Pines on May 14 and received vaccinations on May 9, we cannot accept your pet due to the insufficient 10 day waiting period. Please fax records to the Misty Pines office at (412) 367-PETS (7387).

The waiting periods vary due to the length of duration and points of contact at the facility.

Vaccination Requirements for Dog Training Classes, Dog Grooming and Dog Park Grounds: All dogs must be current on Rabies, DHLPP, and Bordetella (Bordetella every 6 months) vaccinations. All pets must have received inoculations at least 5 days prior to their visit to Misty Pines. The waiting period will allow your dog to build sufficient immunity to the vaccinations which will make your dog less susceptible to catching or transferring any unwanted viruses. This includes new and updated vaccinations. Your pet cannot be over due for vaccinations - NO EXCEPTIONS. For example, if your pet is scheduled to visit Misty Pines on May 14 and received vaccinations on May 11, we cannot accept your pet due to the insufficient 5 day waiting period. Please bring vaccination records with you or fax to the Misty Pines office at (412) 367-PETS (7387).

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Pittsburgh, Cranberry, Wexford, Sewickley, Franklin Park, Allegheny, Butler and Beaver County.

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