Updated Tracking Regulations now available

Dear Tracking Judge,

A new copy of the Tracking Regulations book has been published and posted, and you are eligible to receive a complimentary copy. Please send an email request to tracking@akc.org to receive a copy in the mail.

In the email Subject Line type: “Tracking Regs – Judge Request.”

In the body of the email include the following information:

·        Judge Number

·        First and Last Name

·        Street, City, State and Zip code

The document can also be found on the AKC website:

The Companion Events Team

TDX and VST Blind Starts

Tracking Dog Excellent and Variable Surface Tracking tests require the dog to demonstrate an advanced skill at the start flag.  The handler is instructed to approach the start of the track without indication of the direction of the track.  The dog takes scent from the start article and without guidance from the handler, must commit itself to the direction of the track before the handler may leave the start flag.

In order for judges to plot a good, one-flag blind start, there must be careful planning before they enter either TDX or VST fields.  Both of these tracking tests require a start in an area that permits the direction of the track to go in any direction within a 180 degree arc.  The judges must include a 30 yard, straight walk-in by the tracklayer, to ensure that there is not a turn at the starting flag.  For TDX tracks, the judges must also think about staying away from obstacles on the first leg and plotting the first corner out in the open.  For VST tracks, the judges must have at least 20 yards of vegetation after the start flag.

At the time of plotting, it is important for the judges to discuss the exact approach and path the handler will be advised to walk in with their dog to get to the start.  This is important for two reasons.  The first is to make sure that the handler’s direction of approach is less than 90 degrees in relation to the first leg.  The team should not have to work an acute angle at the start. The second consideration is to ensure that the handler brings the dog to the start flag at an angle that does not give away the direction of the track and allows the dog to demonstrate his ability to take scent from the start article and find the direction of the track.  This is a fundamental requirement for advanced tracking dogs.  Handlers work hard training their dogs to be competent at indicating direction from a blind start and they expect this component at the test.

Happy Tracking!

AKC Tracking Regulation Revisions

Tracking Tests – Recording Devices, and Protective Eye Goggles

At the July 2023 Board Meeting, the Board VOTED to modify the AKC Tracking Regulations, Chapter 2, Section 19 to state that:

1) That recording devices are not allowed on the tracking field and 2) That dogs may wear eye goggles, effective August 1, 2023.

Section 19. Praise, Play, and Items on the Track and Dog. Praise and petting of the dog are allowed after the dog finds the article(s). However, exhibitors will not excessively play with articles as toys, toss them to the dog, or throw them on the ground, which may be construed as a restart. Once the track is complete, playing with any of the articles is allowed.

   The only items permitted on the tracking field are those items considered by the judges to be essential to conducting the test and permitted by these Regulations. Judges will not allow any motivational items such as food, balls, or toys to be used or carried within 30 yards of a track. Judges will not allow any type of recording devices that film video, capture pictures and/or locations, to be carried by the handler or attached to the dog. The carrying or use of motivational items or recording devices will require the dog to be failed and excused from the field.                                                    

Dogs may wear a protective coat, eye goggles, and/or footwear. If worn, the coat, tracking harness, goggles and/or footwear must be put on in the presence of both judges.

As soon as a regulation insert is availalbe, it will be published.


The Companion Events Team

Allowing Bitches in Season to Participate

The AKC Tracking Regulations allow test-giving clubs an option of allowing bitches in season to participate in tracking tests. If a club decides to allow them, the club must state in their premium list that “bitches in season may participate.”

It is up to the entrant to notify the test secretary that their bitch is in season. The test secretary will notify the judges before the draw for running order. If there are more than one bitch in season, a draw will be held to determine their running order. The last track(s) will be reserved for the bitch in season.

Ok, but what if the judges were not at their daily limit and they have plotted and laid an alternate track that might be available for titling? When does the bitch in season run then?

The answer is that she runs the last regular track… before the alternate track is run.

The alternate track is to be used, first and foremost, to replace a track that has become invalidated. The alternate track does not become available as an “extra” titling track until all of the dogs that were “in” the test have been judged. It is altogether possible that the alternate track may have to be utilized to replace an unusable track for the bitch in season. So, the bitch in season runs the last regular track and if that last track is not invalidated, the first alternate exhibitor may run the alternate track for titling afterward.

It is also important to give the exhibitor with the bitch in season specific instructions as to where to park, where to exercise the dog and to ensure that the bitch in season is not on the tracking field until the judges indicate that she should be brought to the start.

Happy Tracking!

Tracklayer Instructions

One of the most important resources at a tracking test are the volunteer tracklayers. It is essential that judges give good instructions to every tracklayer. Making sure that the tracklayers are trained to do a good job will help everyone relax, have a pleasurable experience and continue to be willing to track lay tracks at future tests.

Here is an example of good communication on plotting day:
• Take the approved articles home with you tonight and put them in your boot overnight so that they are well scented.
• Today, draw your own map while we are plotting your track. If you have any questions or concerns please don’t hesitate to ask. You can use your own step count or convert to yardage. You may rewalk your track today.
• Tomorrow, your track is to be laid at __:__. Please arrive at the test site ½ hour before your track is to go in and check in with the head tracklayer. The tracklaying times may need to be adjusted.
• On test day, before laying your track, be sure that you have your articles and your map. Please take a cell phone and call me at (___/___-_____) if you have questions while you are on the track.
• Approach your start flag as we are doing on plotting day… you must walk in straight in at least (10 yards for TD/TDU or 30 yards for TDX/VST) yards before the start flag.
• Pause at the start flag, note the exact time and drop your start article. Please bring a duplicate start article. We will ask you for it if the original goes missing so keep it in your pocket “just in case”.
• Leave the start flag (and the second, directional flag for TD/TDU). Pick up all of the rest of the flags (except the cross-track flags for TDX).
• Drop the glove (or final article for VST) and pick up the last flag. You must continue to walk in the same line at least 30 yards after the final article drop.
• If you observe anything unusual or if you make an error of any kind in laying your track, dropping articles or leaving flags, please report it to the judges right away. Do not discuss this with anyone else.
• Meet us at the start of your track when the time comes for the dog to run. Please stay more than 50 yards away from your start, bring your map and the second start article.
• You will be walking along while the team is being judged. Please stay on the track and behind the judges so that you can easily orient yourself and help the team to complete the track should they be failed by the judges.

Judges can boost tracklayer confidence by using “double siting” on near and far objects during plotting. Judges should also take a quick look at the tracklayer’s map after the track is plotted to make sure that the turns and article placements are correct and well documented.

Happy Tracking!

The Worker Option

AKC Tracking Regulations provide clubs an option to award certificates that can be used for an advantage in the drawing for entries at future club tracking events.  These are called Worker Option certificates.  Each club will decide on their own WO policies that will determine how volunteers can earn a WO certificate, if and when the WO certificate expires and if WO certificates will be given to judges.  A test worker cannot benefit from a Worker Option slot in a test in which they are working.

If a club decides to implement the Worker Option at a tracking test, the information and the number of tracks to be set aside must be published in the premium list.

The number of tracks that a club may set aside for past workers is determined by the total number of test tracks offered.  If a club is offering a combined test, then the tracks from all test types are added together.  For example, a 3 dog TD combined with a 3 dog TDX test would be considered 6 test tracks and would qualify to offer 2 WO slots.  Alternate tracks that might be available for running as a titling track are not considered as “test tracks offered”. 

Entries with Worker Option certificates are drawn before non-worker entries in each draw category (see lists below).  After the WO slots are filled, the remaining WO entries are added to the non-worker entries for the draw for the remaining tracks.  If the test is being given by a specialty club, then preference is given to the specialty breed before “other” breeds.  Non-titled dogs are always drawn before titled dogs.  A dog is considered “titled” if they have either a TD or TDU title in TD and TDU tests.

Happy Tracking!

AKC National Tracking Invitational September 9 & 10, 2023

The 10th AKC National Tracking Invitational will be held at the beautiful Branched Oak State Recreation Area in Raymond, Nebraska and hosted by the Cornhusker Kennel Club and Nebraska Kennel Club. Event information and updates can be found on these sites:
2023 NTI website – https://2023akcnti.com/
2023 NTI Facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/groups/2023akcnti/
AKC website –https://www.akc.org/sports/tracking/events/akc-national-tracking-invitational/

The 2023 AKC National Tracking Invitational is a “by invitation” event limited to dogs who earned a Champion Tracker (CT) title between January 1, 2012 through June 30, 2023. If your dog is eligible then soon after June 30 you will receive an electronic invitation via email to enter. If your dog is eligible, we highly recommend you sign in to the AKC website and verify that your email address is correct.

Entries for the NTI will close on Friday August 11, 2023 at 6:00 pm CDT. A random drawing of all entries will be made on Saturday August 12, 2023 at noon CDT. The first twelve lucky dogs drawn will be awarded an exhibitor position and the remaining entries will be assigned an “Alternate” status in the order drawn. The blind drawing will be streamed live on the NTI 2023 Facebook group!

Ilene Morgan, Grand Isle, Vermont
Pia Paulsen, Malibu, California
Jeanne L Ramirez, Bucyrus, Kansas
Inge Suchanek, Milton, Wisconsin

Chairperson, Dian Quist (dqsdogs@yahoo.com)
Event Secretary, Shelly Rehmeier (shellyrehmeier@cox.net)
Volunteers, Sue Volkmer (ntivolunteers2023@gmail.com)
Donations & Supporters, Christy Brandt (christy10156@yahoo.com) & Alycia Noble (alycia.e.noble@gmail.com)
Merchandise, Ron Weaks (rweaks@centurylink.net)
Website & Facebook, Joe Bradley (joeomarbradley@gmail.com)
Photographers, TBD
AKC Representative, Carol Ruthenberg (carol.ruthenberg.contractor@akc.org)

Quick Reference Guide for Tracking

Both in training and in official test plotting, we are often asked to switch between creating tracks for TD, TDU, TDX and VST. Since each test type has it’s own requirements, it’s important that we don’t get the details confused in the field.

Here is a handy, one-page table comparing the requirements for each test. Please print it and carry it along in your clipboard compartment for easy reference.

Quick Reference Guide

Happy Tracking!

Observation Without Influence

One of the essential responsibilities of every tracking judge is to observe everything that goes on in the field. It is important that judges do not place pressure on the working team by being so close that their proximity to the team influences the dog or handler in any way. Dogs need to be trained to accept that people will follow along while they track. Handlers need to be able to read their dog and follow the dog’s lead without cueing off of the judges.

At the start: The AKC Tracking Regulations state that judges will instruct the handler to approach the start flag from a distance of 50 yards for TDX tracks, and at least 30 yards for TD, TDU and VST tracks. As a judge, you want to set them up for success by giving them the space to collect their nerves, perform their regular start routine, and allow the dog to take scent from the start article without contamination.

On the track: While it may be possible to see an entire track from a single vantage point, it is virtually impossible to evaluate a marginal or failing performance from a single, stationary point. Judges should maintain a discreet and constant position behind the handler, either on the last completed leg of the track, or at least 40-50 yards on a long leg. This is a recommended MINIMUM and you should leave more room when there is an unobstructed view of the team. If judges are too close, they make it very difficult for the team to back up should the dog need to work through a scenting problem. This is a critical tool that may be key to a passing performance.

At corners: The position of the judges should not “give away” the direction that the track may go. Judges should stay on the track and not venture into a still-unused part of the field showing the handler that the track does not go into this area. It is also imperative that the judges not move until the dog and handler have committed to a new direction, and are well down the new leg of the track. Movement by the judges as soon as the dog takes a new direction will indicate the direction of the track to the handler.

“Observation without influence” should be the goal of both judges and people laying blind training tracks.

Happy Tracking!

Turns “Out In the Open”

The Tracking Regulations for Tracking Dog and Tracking Dog Urban test tracks state that at least two 90-degree turns will be well out in the open and the first turn on a Tracking Dog Excellent test track must be in an open area

The basic concept of a TD/TDU turn in the open is that the direction of the next leg is completely unpredictable. When the dog is at a 90-degree turn that is well out in the open, the track could go right, left or continue straight. Since you will need to plot at least two of these of turns, it is a great idea to plan for the first turn to be one of these “out in the open” turns. That way you will have half of your requirement taken care of and it will make plotting easier for the rest of your track. Leaving the “out in the open” turns until the end of the track is risky as you may be reaching the maximum required yardage or be constrained due to the size or shape of the field. 

In order to plot a good start, first leg and turn for a TDX track it takes careful consideration. There are four components to think about before you even step into the field! 

• TDX starts should be in the same cover as the first leg and first turn. 

• TDX starts should be in an area that permits the direction of the track to go in any direction within a 180-degree arc. 

• Obstacles are not permitted on the first leg of a TDX track (which includes the first turn). There should not be a scenting, physical or line handling challenge on the initial leg nor near the first turn. 

• The first turn on a TDX track should be in an open area where the track could go in any direction. 

Take a few moments to plan for these track requirements before you start. Plotting great tracks is an art form that takes thought and practice to master.