The greatest thing about AKC tracking is it is a competition that is based only on pass/fail. There are no “scores” or “placings”, so the competition is truly between you, your dog and the track. Everyone at a test is pulling for each dog to succeed. Even though an IG is a sight hound, he has instinct to use his nose to find the game to chase. Tracking is as much instinct as lure coursing to the IG with one bonus‐‐the human half of the team can participate in the track. Tracking trials allow Italian Greyhounds to demonstrate their natural ability to recognize and follow human scent. Yes folks, they can track! Unlike obedience events that require three qualifying scores, an IG must only successfully complete one track to earn his title.
The titles are Tracking Dog (TD), Tracking Dog Excellent (TDX) and the latest addition, Variable Surface Tracking (VST). An IG earns a TD by following a track laid by a human from 30 minutes to 2 hours before. This is usually a 440 to 500 yard single track. A TDX track can be aged from 3 to 5 hours and will measure anywhere from 800 to 1,000 yards with the dog having to overcome physical and scenting obstacles. A VST dog will demonstrate his ability by following a 3 to 5 hour track that may take him down a paved street, through a building and other areas exhibiting urban settings as well as the wilderness.
Tracking training should be very positive. Each attempt is successful even if the handler helps the dog achieve its goal. Even in tests after a fail, the tracklayer stays and helps the dog find the track and the article. The length, age, and terrain difficulties are added slowly. Even when a dog is advanced, he is given an “easy” track to keep motivation high. Since a human doesn’t have the ability to scent tracks like a canine, corrections should be scarce.
Tracking is a great sport for the younger and older dog. The best time to start tracking is 8 weeks old. Remember the puppy had to “track” his mother to receive nourishment when he was blind and deaf. Puppy tracks are short and fun with the little one killing or playing tug with the article. This sets the foundation for longer tracks later on. The older veteran that can’t participate in obedience or dog shows loves to get out and get praise for pleasing his owner. Tracking is a sport that the dog controls the pace. Arthritic older dogs can walk the tracks at their own speed (there is no time limit).
Although it is a well known fact that IG’s love their inside comforts, they will brave the fields to find that elusive “glove” and receive their reward. The best bonus a tracking team receives from the sport is the ability to communicate. The handler learns to read the dog’s body language to know if the dog is looking for track, found track, or just shopping and doing some recreational scenting. Since the handler does not know where track is, he must develop this ability to read and trust the dog. This ability is an asset in obedience, agility and just every day cohabitation. For more information on tracking, check the AKC Tracking Page.