Tracking is a companion sport that tests your dog's natural ability to follow a scent trail as well as your own ability to read your dog's signals and respond accordingly.

 

Whether you're a tracking or specialty club member with formal training or you're entirely self-taught, your first attempt at a title will be for either a TD or a TDU.  We've put together some information to help you score your first victory!

IMPORTANT UPDATE:

As of April 1, 2019, the AKC has made several changes to the official Tracking Regulations.  Prior to this date, certifications were done exclusively by AKC approved judges and were valid for a period of one year.  The information provided below reflects the new regulations:


Tracking is a sport that requires quite a bit of labor and real estate!  It takes many people many, many hours to plan and host an event.  It's important to determine that your tracking team is truly ready to perform before you are able to enter for a spot in a test.  That's where certification comes in.

When you are confident that your dog is able to follow a track that is similar in difficulty to one you might encounter in a TD or TDU test, it's time to certify.  Scroll down the page for an overview of a TD and TDU track.

A detailed description of the certification process and all track types can be found on the AKC website. 

 

Here's some tips:
 

  • When you feel you're ready, you'll need to contact an AKC approved evaluator, usually a tracking test judge.  A searchable list of judges in your area is available here.  A person who has handled a dog to a successful TDX or VST title within the last 10-years is also authorized by the AKC to evaluate and certify your dog.  If you need additional information, feel free to reach out to us or another AKC approved tracking or specialty club for help.  You'll find a list of clubs in your area here.
     

  • Arrange a time and location to meet the judge.  Judges usually do not expect payment for certification.  They have, however, taken time from their schedule and may have incurred expense in meeting with you.  If you would like to compensate them for their costs, they will not be offended.  While a polite thank-you gift is nice, you'll find that the compensation judges would most like is your time.  Volunteering to help at a future tracking test is greatly appreciated and it's a wonderful way to get to know the sport.  

 

  • The judge will lay a track equal in difficulty to a TD or a TDU track and will allow the track to age for at least 30 minutes.  The starting flag and second flag, as well as the appropriate start and end articles, will be present.

 

  • Start your dog as you have practiced.  Tracking tests are not timed.  Allow your dog the time it needs to locate and follow the scent trail.  As long as your dog is actively tracking, you're doing great.

 

  • If your dog is able to successfully navigate the track and locate the end article, you've just become certified! 

 

  • The judge will present you with four certificates.  Make sure you have your dog's AKC registered name and registration number handy.  The judge will need to enter this information on your certificate. 

 

  • When you enter a tracking test, you will submit one certificate with your entry form.  If your team is chosen for a test, your certificate will not be returned to you, pass or fail.  If your name is not drawn, the test secretary will return it to you so that you may use it again.

 

  • Your certificates are valid for two years.  If you fail to use them before they expire, or if you use them all but are unable to title, you will need to go through the certification process again to enter any further tests.

 

  • Once your dog has received its first title, you no longer need to submit a certificate with your entry form.


     

The following is a simple overview of the TD test requirements:

 

  • A TD track is plotted in an open field with uniform cover and moderate terrain.  You will not encounter any obstacles in a TD track. 

 

  • A TD track is between 440 and 500 yards in length.

  • The scent on a TD track is between 30 minutes and 2 hours old.

  • A TD track has 3 to 5 turns and will include at least two 90-degree turns, both left and right.  No acute angle turns are used.

  • Each leg of a TD track is at least 50 yards long.

  • Thirty yards beyond the start flag, a second flag is placed that indicates the direction of the first leg of the track.

  • The first turn will be at least thirty yards beyond the second flag.

  • There are two articles used on a TD track.  The start article is made of cloth.  The end article is either a glove or a wallet. 

What to expect at a TD test:

  • You're probably going to be nervous!  This is totally normal but completely unnecessary.  Everyone is wishing you well.

  • Prior to the start of the test, you will draw lots to determine what track you will be assigned.

  • When your track is ready to be run you will be driven or shown to the start of the track.

 

  • The judges will direct you to the start flag and tell you to begin when you are ready.

  • You'll find the start article at the first flag.  In a TD test the start article will be made of cloth.  There are no intermediary articles in a TD test.  

  • A second flag, approximately 30 yards from the start flag, indicates the direction of the first leg of the track.  This is all the help you're going to get.

  • Give your dog the command to begin tracking.  Make sure that you pick up the start article and carry it with you in case you need to re-scent your dog along the way.  If for some reason you need to restart your dog, you may request that the judges allow you to do so as long as you haven't passed the second flag.

  • Follow your dog!  Trust that your dog knows its job.  If you believe that your dog has become distracted and is no longer tracking, you may give a verbal command but you cannot call your dog back to you or guide it in any way.

  • The judges and your tracklayer, in addition to a possible gallery of spectators, will follow and observe at a distance.  

  • If the judges blow the whistle before you find the end article... you didn't pass.  Don't feel bad, we've all been there.  You're in good company!  Try again.  That's why you were given four certificates.  Your tracklayer will be more than happy to walk the track with you and let you know where you went off course.  

  • The end article for a TD test will be a glove or wallet.  If your dog finds it, wave it in the air for the judges to see and make sure you tell your dog how wonderful he is!  Save the treats for the after party, though.  They're not allowed on the track.

  • After you've successfully completed your TD track, the test secretary will file the necessary paperwork with the AKC.  You will be issued a Tracking Dog certificate and will be permitted to use the title TD after your dog's name.  Congratulations!

CLICK HERE TO SEE A SAMPLE TD TRACK

The following is a simple overview of the TDU test requirements:

 

  • The TDU in an optional title.  Like a TD title, earning a TDU will allow you to progress to the TDX and/or the VST test.  It is not, however, necessary to earn a TDU in order to advance.

 

  • The TDU is designed to test your dog's ability to follow a scent trail across a variety of scenting conditions in an urban environment. 

 

  • Between 10% and 30% of a TDU track will be plotted on non-vegetated surfaces such as parking lots, baseball diamonds, sidewalks, and lightly traveled roads.  The start will be plotted on a vegetated surface.

 

  • A TDU track is between 400 and 500 yards in length.

  • The scent on a TDU track is between 30 minutes and 2 hours old.

  • A TDU track has 3 to 5 turns and will include at least two 90-degree turns both left and right.  No acute angle turns are used.  No turns will be plotted on non-vegetated surfaces.

 

  • Each leg of a TDU track is at least 50 yards long.

  • Thirty yards beyond the start flag, a second flag is placed that indicates the direction of the first leg of the track.

  • The first turn will be at least thirty yards beyond the second flag.

  • There are three articles used on a TDU track.   The start article will made of cloth or leather.  The second article, also cloth or leather, will be dropped approximately midway on the track at least 30 yards from a turn.  The end article is either a glove or a wallet. 

What to expect at a TDU test:

  • For the most part, you should expect exactly the same thing that you would in a TD test.  Review above if necessary.

  • Unlike the TD, however, the TDU includes a second, intermediary article between the start and end articles.  When your dog locates the second article, hold it in the air for the judges to see and then take it with you as you did with the start article.

  • Since you may be crossing a lightly traveled road while running your TDU track, it is necessary and acceptable for you to restrain your dog if you encounter traffic.

  • Upon successfully completing a TDU test, you will receive a Tracking Dog Urban certificate from the AKC and will be allowed to use the title TDU after your dog's name.  Congratulations!
     

 

CLICK HERE TO SEE A SAMPLE TDU TRACK

TD & TDU TITLES

FIRST STEP: CERTIFICATION

TRACKING DOG TITLE (TD)

TRACKING DOG URBAN TITLE (TDU)

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Des Plaines, IL 60018