You’ve got your equipment, harness, 40 ft long line, collar, 6 ft lead, glove and some surveyor flags and you are now ready to start your first track.  You will need to go to an area that is at least a couple 2-3 acres of land that is not cut grass, but rather a field.  Preferably, this land should be ankle to knee high grass.  Luckily, as you read this article it is early spring and all the snow is gone, and it is quite damp.  As you start your first track, bring along tons of soft, small bite-size pieces of soft treats.  I will talk about having a friend to help you with your tracks.  If you don’t have someone to work with, you can but a tie-out stake and just tie your dog out on the tie-out stake, achieving the same results.

          For your first attempt at tracking you will be using a 6 ft lead rather than your long line until your dog gets comfortable with going ahead of you.  Generally this does not take more than a few practice sessions.  It is a good idea, even if you have land right at your home to practice on, to have your dog in a crate prior to starting your track.  This is how it will be when you go to a test, and we want to develop those strong start routines (see last month’s article) to communicate to the dog that we are tracking.

          On day one, you will be laying your track (walking) following the three diagrams listed below.  A small, bite-size treat will be dropped in each of your foot steps along the track and a big jackpot of treats (you decide how many) will be placed on the glove at the end.  You will place a flag at the start and to the left of the track as indicated below;

                    You will lay the first track by placing a treat at the start of the track and then proceed 10 paces putting a treat in each footstep.  At the end you will put your glove and walk 5-10 paces past the glove and proceed in a wide arch to the right or left of the track that you laid, proceeding back to the beginning.   For this first session you will lay three tracks.  The first 10 paces, the second 15 paces and the third 20 paces.  At this point we will not worry about aging the track or length as all we are wanting to communicate to our dogs is to put their nose to the ground and find the glove.  Some dogs will run right to the glove and find the jackpot.  Some dogs will investigate each footstep and treat.  Either response is ok!  Responses vary by the dog.  You will put the collar on your dog while still in the crate and also put on the leash.  Then you will allow your dog to exit the crate on lead.  Again this is required at a tracking test, so it is a good habit to start from the beginning.  When you get about 6 ft from the track, you will put the harness on your dog and clip your six foot lead to the harness.  Then you will take your dog to the start flag with your left hand under the part of the harness that goes over the back of the dog and bring them to a down at the start flag.   You then give the dog the command to track – I say “go track” but you can use any word you want.  As your dog gets up, you then position yourself to the right of your dog’s rear and hold the leash just above the buckle.  Pointing to the ground you will say to your dog, “track” and point to each footstep.  When your dog gets to the glove, give your dog the down command and make a big party saying “what did you find!”.  I think a picture is worth a whole lot of words so I have put some pictures at the end of this article to demonstrate how you proceed down the track.

          Below are some pictures of Bertha TD demonstrating how you should walk to the line, harness and start tracking with your dog.  Please see the captions below each picture;


Walking Bertha up to the track, I have her on a nylon collar and my long line.  I hold the harness in my hand so that I can put it on later.







Here is Bertha and me at the start of the track.  The flag which is behind the sign for public land, is about 6-8 feet in front of us.  At this time I tell Bertha to sit and place her harness on her.  If this is your usual start routine, you will see the dog look out toward the flags and will calmly allow you to put the harness on.  I then take the clip from the collar and attach it to the harness.




I have now taken the top of the harness and am leading Bertha to the start flag.  Notice that she has her head down and is pulling toward the track.  This is the behavior that we want your dog to give you.  When I get to the start flag I will give her a down and then will tell her to “go track!”





We will pretend that this is Bertha’s first track and I am showing her what I want.  I use my left hand to hold the lead right above the clip.  With my right hand I am pointing to the ground and saying “go track”.  For the first several tracking sessions I will be on the right side of the dog and just slightly behind her head as you can see, pointing to the track and telling her to track each footstep.  Bertha will find a piece of hotdog in each footstep and I will proceed with her slowly down the short tracks to the glove.  At the glove, I will ask her to down and she will then get all the hotdogs that are on top of the glove.  I will ask her – what did you find!  And make a big party out of her finding the glove.    If by the end of the 2nd to 3rd session you see your dog pulling ahead to get the hotdogs, you can move to directly behind the dog, keeping your lead tight.

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